Post Rationality of a Hydraulic Civilization: An Ecological Transition for the Vietnamese Mekong Delta
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Nguyen, S. (2023). Post Rationality of a Hydraulic Civilization: An Ecological Transition for the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. Journal of Delta Urbanism, (4).


A radical project is proposed for the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, calling for the urgency to realize its Ecological Transition, as a response to the need to reverse the detrimental environmental impacts accumulated over the course of its history of agrarian colonization.  The article reveals the evolution of the delta’s territory, through an atlas of palimpsests regarding the delta’s past transformations primarily driven by the hydraulic management of its territory. The resulting environmental degradation and obliteration of much of the Mekong Delta’s ability to self-regenerate are found in large part as the consequence of the devotion of the delta’s ecosystem resources to mass rice production; driven by vast irrigation infrastructural expansion. However, as an unintentional consequence of the investments made in infrastructural networks during the Green Revolution, a new value was propelled by farmers and the local community through the diversification of infrastructural uses, resulting in hybrid rururban land transformations, indicating the potential for Ecological Transition in the delta.

Through the theoretical perspective of alternative ways for metropolization defined in the ‘Horizontal Metropolis’ and the conceptual approach developed under the ‘Project of Isotropy’, post-rationality of the agrarian territory is proposed through the reorganization and design of the primary canals established for irrigation after the 1986 ‘Doi Moi’ reform period. Social-Techno-Ecological corridors are proposed to transform the currently overlooked and engineered canal settlements living in Long Xuyen Quadrangle and Can Tho province, through a resilient community-based living and cultivation paradigm based on the advancement of the traditional Vietnamese VAC (Garden-Pond-Animal) model.  In addition, the Water Ecological Framework is proposed as a wider Delta Intervention whereby a series of circular water processes can take place ecologically across the territory, to promote the partial reinstatement of the Mekong’s deltaic regenerative processes. 

As a radical integration between the wider Water Ecological Framework and the Social-Techno-Ecological corridors, the evolution of the deltaic territory is envisioned to create new social ecologies across the Mekong Delta, offering valuable climate-resilient ecosystems through biodiversity and a synergetic coexistence. Bringing into reality an Ecological Transition for the delta’s resilient future, whereby the regeneration of its deltaic processes shall be reinstated with a more conducive coexistence between humans and nature, as a new paradigm to address the wicked problems of our time.
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