Planning and designing roads in the Mekong Floodplains of Cambodia and Vietnam | WWF

Planning and designing roads in the Mekong Floodplains of Cambodia and Vietnam

Posted on
17 December 2006
The floodplains in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) are among the few remaining global examples of a relatively intact and functioning floodplain in a large river basin. It is widely accepted that this feature is one of the main reasons behind the incredibly productive fisheries of the Mekong, as well as its tremendous biological diversity.

These productive fisheries, and fertile agricultural land, support the livelihoods of the basin’s population and are replenished by nutrients provided by annual flooding.

Many of the people living in these areas are among the poorest in Asia, living at agricultural and fisheries subsistence levels. While the annual flood cycle of the Mekong provides resources for these people, it is a fragile balance that can easily be tipped the other way.

In recent years, flooding has caused extensive loss of life, property, and livelihood, while also severely damaging local infrastructure, particularly roads. At the same time, roads and their development have a considerable impact on the floods, by fragmenting wetlands and interrupting the natural flow of water, sediments, nutrients, and aquatic life, thereby negating the beneficial effects normally brought by the natural flood cycle.

The population in the Lower Mekong Basin is expected to rise from about 60 million to 100 million by 2025, and higher quality roads will be needed. The challenge is to make future road structures more flood-resistant and provide greater through-flow capacity, while reducing their negative environmental impacts. This would reduce flood damage and associated costs, and would also benefit biodiversity conservation.

The Roads and Floods Project, a joint initiative of WWF, the Mekong River Commission (MRC), and the Delft Cluster, is developing guidelines for better planning of road design and construction of roads, as well as helping to develop appropriate environmental impact assessment methodologies. The results will be integrated into the work of the Mekong River Commission Flood Management and Mitigation Programme Centre (FMMP) in Phnom Penh.

The main expected beneficiaries of the project will be relevant Cambodian and Vietnamese line agencies, particularly the national ministries and provincial authorities responsible for planning, construction, and maintenance of roads, as well as the development banks that fund infrastructure projects. The results of the Roads and Floods Project will also be shared with agencies in Lao PDR and Thailand to identify their applicability in the rest of the Lower Mekong Basin.

In a broader perspective, this project will demonstrate the importance of adopting an international river basin management framework that, if successful, will contribute to biodiversity conservation in the Mekong Delta and increase the efficiency of infrastructural investment in the region.

For more information, please contact:
Mr Marc Goichot, WWF
Dr Wim Douven, UNESCO-IHE
Dr Ngoc Huynh Minh, MRC-FMMP
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