New Mangrove Living Lab result from collaboration with TU Delft

In Vietnam, the newly established Mangrove Living Lab has been put into operation. Here, ideas for restoring mangrove forests to protect the Mekong Delta from water are being tested. Today Minister Mark Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management visited the lab, which is a result of years of cooperation in education and research between TU Delft and Thuy Loi University in Hanoi.

With sea level rise, land subsidence and weather extremes such as severe storms, mangroves in the Mekong Delta play an important role. They are a natural coastal protector. Due to deforestation, environmental pollution and population growth, the forests became severely depleted and degraded. And that results in coastal erosion. "The Vietnamese government is putting a lot of money into planting new forest, but a solid knowledge base was still missing," explains Marjan Kreijns, director of The Green Village at TU Delft Campus. "Under what conditions exactly do young trees thrive? What role does sediment transport or plastic pollution play?"

Because of the new Mangrove Living Lab, Vietnamese academics can now conduct hands-on research on natural coastal management solutions, the functioning of existing concrete dikes and alternative ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. The researchers will gather knowledge through field research, long-term monitoring and research experiments. The Living Lab is also expected to present the various lessons learned and potential natural solutions for coastal management in Vietnam.

A new generation of Vietnamese engineers

The Mangrove Living Lab is an example of the flourishing cooperation between Thuy Loi University and TU Delft. They have worked together in the field of water management and coastal defense for more than 30 years. "A fantastic success story," Marjan Kreijns calls this collaboration. "What once started as sharing Dutch knowledge in the field of delta management is now an equal partnership. We learn from our Vietnamese partners and they learn from us."

In 2005, Kreijns, stationed in the region, became involved in the collaboration with Thuy Loi University, and continued it from Delft six years later. Students from Vietnam came to Delft thirty years ago for a master’s degree or doctoral program. And today Dutch TU students regularly go to Vietnam for internships and research.

"The Faculty of Coastal Hydraulics at TLU is now mature and has a good reputation internationally, thanks in part to the influx of academics trained partly in Delft. It increasingly serves as the knowledge base of Vietnamese water and coastal policy," says Kreijns. "In the Netherlands we have no mangroves. It makes sense for the Vietnamese government to consult its own experts instead of Western consultants. Twenty years ago that was not possible, now it is."
Minister Harbers is also enthusiastic about the cooperation: "Great to see and hear how knowledge is shared in this place. The mangroves are a natural solution to protect the land from water, just like the dunes in the Netherlands are. According to research data, these mangroves protect even better than concrete dikes. A great example of how new knowledge can make for a safer and cleaner area."

The Green Village as inspiration

The idea for the Mangrove Living Lab in Vietnam came about during a visit to The Green Village on TU Delft’s campus, says assistant professor of hydraulic engineering Le Hai Trung. At The Green Village, all kinds of innovations are tested to keep the urban living environment liveable in our changing climate. Trung feels proud that a similar Living Lab has become a reality in Vietnam. "When I first saw The Green Village in Delft, I was so inspired. I immediately knew we had to have something like that in Vietnam as well."