© Thomas Cristofoletti / WWF-US
Sustainable Sand Mining in the Mekong Delta

Located in a critical economic region in southern Viet Nam, the Mekong Delta is one of the most crucial geological features in the region for the animals, plants, and humans that depend on it.

However, in recent years the Delta has been heavily impacted by anthropogenic stresses such as upstream dam construction and sand mining in its main and distributary channels. Between 2018 and 2020, sand mining for all of the Mekong’s channels within the delta, which have a cumulative length of several hundred kilometres, was reported at 17.77 cubic meters per year. The total sand flux entering the Mekong Delta is 6.18 Mt/year, far less than current sand extraction rates

As a result of this unsustainable activity, the Mekong’s riverbanks and coastal zones are eroding, and half a million people are at risk of losing their homesThere has also been a reduction in diversity and abundance of fish in mined areas, as well as changes to riverside vegetation (WWF, 2018).

Climate change adds to the effects of unsustainable sand mining on the Delta’s ecosystem with increased droughts, heavier rains, and unprecedented sea level rise. Without concerted concrete action, the Mekong Delta could soon become an ecological, agricultural, and economic dead zone.

© Adam Oswell / WWF-Greater Mekong

What is WWF-Viet Nam doing?

To improve the Mekong Delta’s resilience against the effects of unsustainable sand mining and climate change, WWF-Viet Nam, Germany, and the Greater Mekong Programme are implementing the project “Drifting Sands: Mitigating the impacts of climate change in the Mekong Delta through public and private sector engagement in the sand industry”. It is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) – BMU and managed by WWF-Germany, with Viet Nam’s MARD, MONRE and MPI as key partners amongst others.

Project Goals

Started in 2019 and set to end in 2023, the project’s goal is to contribute to maintaining key ecological functions and reduce socio-economic vulnerability to climate change in the Mekong Delta.

Project interventions / approaches

To achieve its goals, the project will, in close consultation with key stakeholders, establish a basin-wide sand-and-gravel-budget to create a uniform understanding of the scope and impact of unsustainable extraction rates.
The project intends also to work with key actors in the public and private sector to develop and propose improved policies and practices (such as the River Geomorphology Stability Plan - RGSPlan) in relation to sustainable sand and gravel mining, and it will use public outreach to raise awareness of the need for action to counter the impacts of unsustainable sediment exploitation in the Delta.
Furthermore, the project will promote participation and dialogue among key actors in the Vietnamese construction sector, whom it will provide with information on the risks associated with sand mining and opportunities for sustainable alternative sourcing to river sand and gravel.

© Adam Oswell / WWF-Greater Mekong

What We Have Done?

  • A Desk Review was conducted to identify key sites in the Mekong Delta for sand flow monitoring based on secondary data review.
  • An Analysis of and lessons learned on SAND AND GRAVEL EXTRACTION POLICIES, REGULATIONS AND PRACTICES has been also produced to identify best practices in the international regulatory framework that can provide replicable solutions for sustainable river sand management in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta context.


What Is Coming Next?

  • A report on the Sand Value Chain in the Mekong Delta
  • A report on alternatives to river sand in the construction sector
  • The development of guidelines for a River Geomorphology Stability Plan - RGSPlan
  • The development of a Sand Budget


Project Key Partners