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Mekong Delta: Facts, Definition, Map, History, & Location Term Paper

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Updated: Nov 16th, 2021


Mekong Delta is located between two countries in South Asia namely; Cambodia and Vietnam. It is considered one of the largest deltas in the continent of Asia and is home to various economic activities that have precipitated economic growth in the area where it is located. Its location and features have also attracted quite a large number of tourists in the Vietnam and Cambodia areas thus boosting their economic performance. The Delta covers an area of approximately 49,520km2 with some parts located in the Cambodia area while the rest located in the Vietnamese area. Looking at the distribution, Vietnam possesses a large area of the Delta compared to Cambodia. It is not very clear the exact measurements of the area that has been distributed in both countries since various specialists have offered different measurements on the same Delta. However, is approximated that Vietnam covers around 74% of the delta while Cambodia has only 26%. Consequently, Vietnam benefits a lot from the delta compared to Cambodia which has only a small percentage of the Delta. In this paper, I will discuss the geographical features of the Mekong Delta and briefly discuss the economic, cultural, and social impact that the delta has produce on Vietnamese society and the country in general.

Geographical features

Unlike the main country where Mekong Delta is found, the delta region is less hilly and is classified as a low plain according to the Department of Geology in Vietnam. However, in provinces such as Giang and Kien Giang, there are some hills such as Mount Sam and Mount Co To which have heights of 270m and 258m respectively. As a result of this geographical feature, the region is always variable to floods in most of the seasons especially from the upper area and tidewater from the lower part of the sea. One of the interesting geographical features of the Mekong delta is the intermingling of various Rivers such as the Mekong and Tieng Rivers (Hiroshi and shoin 24).

Classification of topography in the Mekong Delta

According to the University of Can Tho in Vietnam, the topographic feature of the Mekong Delta can be subdivided into parts namely, Floodplain, Coastal complex, broad depression, and others.


Most parts of the floodplain are located in the northwest parts of the Mekong delta and are flooded yearly with about 3meter levels of water. The floodplain is divided into segmented landforms such as natural levees, Sand bars, back swaps, closed floodplain, tide-affected tide plain, and open floodplain. The landforms with the natural leaves are situated within River Hau and River Tieng though the landforms are parallel with the Rivers. These landforms are surrounded by the highest flood levels, especially during the October rainy season. For the Sandbars, the features are almost equivalent to the natural levees though the area has a coarse texture on its soil. The back swamps on the other hand have acidic soil and are also exposed to floods during the rainy seasons of September and October. It should be noted that there are some landforms characterized by wetland in the Mekong delta. These areas are referred to as closed floodplains and are characterized by a lot of floods that have no drainage source. These areas are surrounded by Rivers such as Tieng which brings water into the closed floodplains and fails to drain the lands thus resulting in stagnant waters in the areas. Consequently, these areas exhibit the nonacidic form of soil texture and have a lot of reed plants due to the stagnant waters. The tall reeds offer an excellent place for hiding during war times (Callison 44).

There are also open floodplains that are characterized by high floods though they have drainage systems where the water can be moved out of the land. This is because of the sloppy nature of these lands that allow the flow of water. The soil texture is acidic though not acidic as sandbars and during the rainy seasons, the water level is estimated to rise to about 2 meters high. The final subdivision of the floodplain is the tide-affected floodplain whose flooding is affected through tidal water especially from Mekong and Tieng Rivers thereby causing water to rise to 1 meter high during the rainy season (Hiroshi and shoin 30).

Coastal Complex

The landforms in this category include sand ridges, coastal flats, mangrove swamps, and inter ridges. The sand ridges have the highest sea level of about 5 meters and when it comes down, it does not reduce below 2 meters. On the other hand, coastal flats have a maximum height of 1.5 meters during the rainy seasons thereby, free from floods caused by seawater. In the dry season, these areas are free from drought since the saline water can come to the surface of the land through capillary action. With the inter ridge regions, the regions always succumb to floods during the peak seasons of rains. The movements of water in these regions are highly dependant on tidal waves and as a result, the waves help in clearing the acid-sulfate soil thereby providing an excellent environment for agriculture. The mangrove swamps are found in the coastal line and some parts of Ca Mau Province. The type of soil exhibited in this area is acid sulfate (Hiroshi and shoin 50).

Broad depression

This kind of landform is mainly found in the southern part of the Mekong delta. The region has a low surface and can be divided into broad depression and peat depression. The broad depression region is vulnerable to acidic water especially during the low rain season due to being cut off from the supply of water from the Mekong River and Hau River which are the main Rivers in the Delta region. On the other hand, peat depression regions are vulnerable to floods and are always used as a source of irrigation for various agricultural activities (Callison 20).

The others

Others include an old alluvial terrace which has acidified soil covering approximately 150000 hectares and hills and mountains which are separated from the delta. Most of the hills and mountains have a lot of granite, however; there are some hills such as Kien Luong which possess limestone.

Coastal area and currents

The coastal areas of the delta are estimated to have a depth of about 20 meters and according to the geological department of Vietnam, the coastal areas of the delta can be considered as wetlands. This is because most of the areas along the coast are covered mainly by seawater. Around the coastal areas of the delta, some currents are exhibited such as the cold current which normally occurs in January and begins from the coast of the Philippines (Hiroshi and Shoin 82).

Effects of Mekong Delta

Economic effect

The presence of the Mekong delta has produced various positive economic effects on the Vietnamese economy, especially in the industrial and agricultural sectors. For example, due to the agro-industrial products produced in the Mekong delta, Vietnam’s economy grew as a result of the increase in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 8 % in 2007. The Rivers in the area provide a perfect environment for rice farming in Vietnam thus increasing the country’s foreign earnings through rice exportation. As a result, the recent economic survey of Vietnam has indicated that the Mekong delta is growing at an average rate of 14% per annum. The Mekong delta region in Vietnam is considered the third industrial region in the country is expected to grow with the increase in economic activities in the region. Tourism has also contributed to the strong economic growth of Vietnam as a result of tourists flooding the Mekong delta. Therefore, it can be said that the location of the delta in Vietnam has brought substantial economic benefits to the country (Murray 166).

Social effects

Though the Mekong delta has managed to produce good economic effects in the country, it has its disadvantages, especially in the social context. During the rainy seasons, areas around the delta region flood with water thus disrupting the social welfare of the residents. In most cases, the floods resulted in many deaths and destruction of properties thus affecting the peaceful social co-existence of the population. Various diseases are also transmitted through stagnant water thereby leading to poor health among the population living in those areas. In some areas, the flood goes to an extreme level of limiting agricultural activities (Callison 31).

Cultural effects

There are no major cultural effects of the Mekong delta to the society living with the delta region. The main cultural effect that can be discussed is the peasantry nature of the population living within the delta regions. These communities are very poor except for a few thus resulting in great income inequality in the country. As a result of frequent floods in this region, less development has been undertaken toward improving their cultures hence making them maintain the old traditional cultures such as the role of women in the Kitchen, informal system of education, and some fishing activities.


From the above discussion, it is ascertained that the Mekong delta is composed of various rivers the main ones being Mekong and Tieng Rivers. During the rainy seasons, these Rivers overflow leading to floods in the Mekong delta region. Consequently, depending on the topographical setting of the affected region, the water may remain stagnant or drain out. In conclusion, depending on the geographical setting of the region around the delta, the floods would either be beneficial or hazardous to society. For example, in areas where the water can be tapped and used for agricultural purposes such as rice cultivation, the water is beneficial. However, in areas where the floods can not be effectively managed to produce economic use, the floods would result in negative effects on society. All in all, the geographical setting of the Mekong delta is splendid and has attracted various tourists into the country despite causing damage to some families.

Works Cited

Callison, Charles S. Land-to-the-tiller in the Mekong Delta: economic, social, and political effects of land reform in four villages of South Vietnam. California: Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies, University of California, 1983 pp 31-69.

Hiroshi, hori and shoin, kokon. THE MEKONG: The Development and Its Environmental Effects. Can Tho University. Japan.1996 pp 20-98.

Murray, Geoffrey. Vietnam dawn of a new market. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997 pp 166-189.

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