TGCC Assessment: Red River Delta Coastal Spatial Planning and Mangrove Governance

In Vietnam, there is growing support for protecting coastal forests and the environment in the context of climate change. The passing of the 2015 Law on Marine and Island Resources and Environment together with the 2016 approval of the Coastal Forests Decree (No. 119/2016/ND) indicate the importance of developing an integrated, multi-sectoral approach to coastal landscape planning and mangrove management. In the context of the Red River Delta, identifying effective coastal spatial planning and mangrove management is particularly important given the significant risks associated with flooding and coastal erosion from the intense typhoon events this area experiences. As climate change takes place, the government is promoting a precautionary approach emphasizing investments in coastal forests, better management and planning, and development of a stronger knowledge base about these coastal forests.

One of the provinces in the Red River Delta, Haiphong municipality, has had significant experience with marine spatial planning at the provincial level in order to proactively address the potential conflicts between infrastructure development, biodiversity conservation, coastal protection, and other important land uses. However, it is recognized that there is a need to develop more localized spatial planning scenarios through the development of a strong knowledge base on resource use, resource users, tenure and governance systems, and conflicts/complementarities between different sets of interest. Such a planning process would need to facilitate the participatory engagement of key local stakeholders in
order for an acceptable and inclusive spatial plan to be implemented.

The planning process is particularly important in the context of competing land uses and the continuing expansion of mangrove forests along much of the Red River Delta coastline. Within Haiphong’s coastline, the most successful experience with planting and protecting mangroves can be found in Tien Lang district in the south. Through the active engagement of mass organizations such as the Women’s Union and Vietnamese Red Cross, the process of raising seedlings and planting has been localized so that success rates have been increased and costs lowered. Together with afforestation, each of the three coastal communes within Tien Lang district have established limited management approaches aimed at preventing mangrove tree cutting and damage. Each commune has established its own distinctive approach relying on either border guards, a limited set of forest protection agreements, or oscillating between these two approaches. It is clear that these approaches do not rely on the broad-base engagement of local community members, nor do they develop an integrated approach to mangrove management that considers the multiple uses and sets of users relying on mangrove ecosystem products.

As such, there is an important opportunity to carry out a pilot in Tien Lang district that develops clearer guidance for the implementation of the Coastal Forests decree for both planning and mangrove management goals. This will involve both carrying out a participatory coastal spatial planning process and developing a more effective system of mangrove management at the commune and inter-commune level. This can be achieved through the establishment of a governance approach that enables multiple stakeholders to collaboratively develop an understanding of natural resource access, use, management, exclusion, and benefit-sharing arrangements and its effect on resource conditions. Such a spatial planning and mangrove co-management approach can promote stronger involvement by women and marginalized groups to ensure that a wide range of users and their needs are addressed.

There is significant interest among Tien Lang’s district and commune leaders, mass organizations as well as community members in developing a participatory coastal spatial planning process that addresses commune-level and inter-commune needs. This can then form the basis upon which a mangrove co-management approach can be designed that can effectively support the development of rules for using the common mangrove resources in the coastal landscape. Such a co-management approach can draw upon diverse lessons from other mangrove co-management pilots developed for addressing disaster risk reduction, coastal protection, and biodiversity conservation along Vietnam’s coastline.