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Title: <Articles>Extending the Hydraulic Paradigm: Reunification, State Consolidation, and Water Control in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta after 1975
Authors: Benedikter, Simon
Keywords: Mekong Delta
water resources development
hydraulic mission
state engineers
water bureaucracy
Issue Date: Dec-2014
Publisher: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
Journal title: Southeast Asian Studies
Volume: 3
Issue: 3
Start page: 547
End page: 587
Abstract: As vividly depicted by James Scott (1998), environmental transformation and the utilization of natural resources for development have, in modern human history, often been driven by the high-modernist world views of (authoritarian) governments. In this context, environmental historians ascribe a powerful role to (hydraulic) engineers as agents of ecological and social transformation. With their epistemic power arising from their association with rational-modern science and technology development, engineers emerged as protagonists of large-scale landscape engineering and water control ventures coordinated by the nation state in the light of modernization. Against this historical background, this paper traces the post-reunification hydraulic mission in the Mekong Delta (1975–90) and highlights the strategic role that state-led water control efforts guided by hydraulic engineers have played in economic recovery, nation building, and state consolidation under socialism. It is argued that water resources development in the Mekong Delta is deeply embedded in the country's historical trajectory, which is framed by national division, the struggle for independence, and the subsequent reunification under the Vietnam Communist Party's leadership. The socialist hydraulic bureaucracy, which arose in the 1950s in North Vietnam, capitalized on the opportune moment of reunification of North and South and systematically expanded its control over the southern waterscape. In this context, the paper presents a historical perspective on how water development strategies and institutional arrangements evolved when North Vietnamese engineers took over water resources management in the Mekong Delta. These past developments still have far-reaching implications for present-day water management dynamics in Vietnam's largest river estuary.
Rights: ©Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
Appears in Collections:Vol.3 No.3

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