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The Mighty Mekong River

The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development
Ben Boer (Author), Philip Hirsch (Author), Fleur Johns (Author), Ben Saul (Author), Natalia Scurrah (Author)

An international river basin is an ecological system, an economic thoroughfare, a geographical area, a font of life and livelihoods, a geopolitical network and, often, a cultural icon. It is also a socio-legal phenomenon. This book is the first detailed study of an international river basin from a socio-legal perspective. The Mekong River Basin, which sustains approximately 70 million people across Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, provides a prime example of the socio-legal complexities of governing a transboundary river and its tributaries.

The book applies its socio-legal analysis to bring a fresh approach to understanding conflicts surrounding water governance in the Mekong River Basin. The authors describe the wide range of uses being made of legal doctrine and legal argument in ongoing disputes surrounding hydropower development in the Basin, putting to rest lingering caricatures of a single, ‘ASEAN’ way of navigating conflict. They call into question some of the common assumptions concerning the relationship between law and development. The book also sheds light on important questions concerning the global hybridization or crossover of public and private power and its ramifications for water governance. With current debates and looming conflicts over water governance globally, and over shared rivers in particular, these issues could not be more pressing.

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The Water-Food-Energy Nexus in the Mekong Region: Assessing Development Strategies Considering Cross-Sectoral and Transboundary Impacts
Alexander Smajgl and John Ward

This Brief provides a cross-sectional analysis of development-directed investments in the wider Mekong region. The wider Mekong region includes Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan. Evidence highlights that a few critical dynamics, including human migration, natural resource flows, and financial investments, generate a high level of connectivity between these countries. Such high levels of connectivity increase complexity and the potential for ripple effects of national decisions. The emerging links between countries can unfold in financial investments, migration, or the flow of resources. As these links intensify the regional connectivity increases and over time a highly connected region can emerge, as experienced by the Mekong region.​ This Brief also contains a chapter at the end of the book featuring numerous charts and diagrams further illustrating the impact of development activities in the area.

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The Vietnamese Hydrocracy and the Mekong Delta: Water Resources Development from State Socialism to Bureaucratic Capitalism
Simon Benedikter

Subduing nature and harnessing water resources rose to become the key paradigm of modernization in the Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Over the past 40 years, waterscape engineering turned Vietnam’s largest river estuary into one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the world. This book traces water resources development from the time of the socialist-oriented hydraulic mission and Green Revolution, which began in the late 1970s under the economic rationale of central planning, to more recent trends responding to renovation policy, global environmental change, and Vietnam’s capitalist transformation. Analytically, the focus is with the nexus of water regulation, bureaucratic power, and socio-ecological change, as well as the vested interests and corresponding strategic actions that coalesce around the technocratic hydro-management. Going beyond the scope of the Mekong Delta, the book offers new perspectives and critical reflections on water governance dynamics and institutional reforms in Vietnam, from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

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Living with Uncertainty: Social Change and the Vietnamese Family in the Rural Mekong Delta
Setsuko Shibuya

This book is one of the first ethnographies written on the life of farmers in rural Southern Vietnam since the economic reform in the 1980s. It investigates how social, economic and political factors affect the farmers’ life in the Mekong Delta in the late socialist era with a particularly focus on the family, which serves as the basic and most significant social unit for the farmers. Dealing with classical anthropological topics of kinship and family, the book examines them as dynamic institutions. With vivid illustrations of the village life, family farming, education of children, jobs outside of farming and everyday politics, it presents new and different pictures of the current Vietnamese family under rapid social changes.

The book will contribute to the current ethnographical research in Vietnam and Southeast Asia and also be of particular interest to those working on society and culture in the geographical region from broader disciplines. It will also appeal to readers who are interested in such topics as late socialism, social transformation, and rural development.

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