HCM CITY — Australian expert Timothy Edward McGrath died on April 18 after a short serious illness, leaving a big gap both professionally and personally for work colleagues past and present, partners, family, and friends.
His funeral ceremony was held at the Cầu Giấy Funeral Home in Hà Nội yesterday (April 20), and The Rite of Committal was held at Cửa Bắc Catholic Church the same day.
He had been awarded several medals from Vietnamese Government and certificates of merits by leaders in many provinces and cities for making “outstanding” contributions to sustainable development in Việt Nam and the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta.
McGrath, 64, worked with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for more than 10 years. He received the “For the cause of agriculture and rural development in Việt Nam” medal from the agriculture ministry on April 13.
One behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Trần Quang Hoài, general director of Việt Nam Disaster Management Authority, expressed gratitude to McGrath’s “outstanding contributions” to the development of Việt Nam, particularly the Mekong Delta.
He said to local media that the medal was in recognition of McGrath’s contributions in various fields including irrigation, natural disaster prevention and control, clean water, and climate resilience and adaption.
The medal was handed over by Hoài at a ceremony held at McGrath’s home in Hà Nội.
The Australian expert also contributed to developing policies on support for rural areas and ethnic minorities, and on poverty reduction, Hoài said.
McGrath arrived in Việt Nam for the first time in 1993 for a research project relating to policies on agriculture.
He returned to Australia and came back to Việt Nam to work four years later.
He started learning Vietnamese and took part in non-governmental organisations’ projects focusing on development of rural areas.
Since 2002, he had travelled across 12 provinces and cities in Cửu Long Delta to work on the Mekong Delta Poverty Analysis project funded by Australian Aid.
The journey evoked in him a love for the southern part of the country and his work there earned him the nickname “Ông Tây Nam Bộ” (A Western Man of the Southern Land).
McGrath began working with GIZ in the wastewater management projects, which was carried out from 2005-2014.
The programme provided national and provincial leaders advisory services and elaborated orientation plans that helped policy-makers and civil society to create the strategic framework for effective and efficient wastewater management at the provincial level.
In recognition to his contributions, Việt Nam Water Supply and Sewage Association awarded him “For the cause of Việt Nam water and wastewater development” medal in 2017.
In 2013, he became the director of the Mekong Urban Flood Resilience and Drainage Programme.
Support from the programme enabled the Government to adopt the national development plan for flood management and urban drainage systems.
The programme supported the three provinces of Cà Mau, Kiên Giang and An Giang to integrate climate change, flood management and early warning systems into the provincial socio-economic development plans for 2019.
It also ensured that the issues regarding flood resilience became a part of government planning and budgeting at different levels of local government, an essential factor for long-term sustainability.
Lê Quốc Anh, deputy chairman of the Kiên Giang People’s Committee, told the Nhân Dân (The People) newspaper that the Mekong Delta province highly appreciated McGrath’s contributions in fields of drainage, flood, and adaption to climate change.
He was an enthusiastic and responsible man who strove to improve living standards in the region, Anh said.
McGrath was recognised by other Government agencies earlier for his work in different fields.
In 2020, the Ministry of Construction awarded McGrath the “For the cause of construction” medal.
During 2019-2021, McGrath worked as deputy director of Mekong Delta Climate Resilience Programme.
The overall objective of the programme was to improve the management of land, water and mangrove forests in the coastal areas of the Mekong Delta.
The programme also supported Vietnamese partners in establishing an institutional framework for the regional coordination of climate-resilient development in the Mekong Delta.
In addition, McGrath also supported MARD and other Vietnamese partners in developing, amending and renewing legal documents, policies, regulations and guidelines relating to natural disaster prevention and control, adaptation to climate change, drainage and anti-flood, coastal protection, and coordination mechanisms for development of Cửu Long Delta.
He also hosted several exchanges between Vietnamese and German experts, and organised meetings between MARD and Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and GIZ.
“McGrath is not only an acknowledged expert but also our close friend,” Hoài emphasised.
Friends can leave a tribute to McGrath via the online memorial at https://www.forevermissed.com/timothy-edward-mcgrath/about. — VNS