Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: EO for monitoring the sand mining crisis in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta

The global demand for sand has been rapidly increasing over the past few decades leading to unsustainable acceleration of sand abstraction. The Vietnamese Mekong Delta (VMD), in particular, has been heavily affected by excessive sand mining, and as a result is experiencing a range of socio environmental impacts including loss of land and damage to infrastructure and livelihoods from accelerated rates of bank erosion. The aim of this project would be to develop Earth Observation (EO) tools to aid monitoring sand mining activity and its impacts.

In the VMD, sand is extracted from the river bottom using crane barges and is often subsequently deposited on the riverbank prior to being shipped to the final destination. Unregulated mining, in particular, poses a tangible threat, and whilst local communities in Vietnam are actively reporting it, more effective monitoring is needed to regulate mining activity at basin scale and better understand its impacts. Satellite remote sensing presents great opportunities for creation of tools that can help evaluate mining intensity, track riverbank erosion and characterise distribution networks, complementing current monitoring approaches.

The exact topic of the project will be chosen with the supervisor. Potential focus area can include (but is not restricted to):

  • Riverine vessel detection from Sentinel-1 imagery. The use of SAR imagery could complement currently employed workflow (based on PlanetScope optical imagery) to fill temporal data gaps, especially during the monsoon season.
  • Developing a workflow for extraction of vessel size from PlanetScope imagery (based on available detection locations) to help provide an estimate of the sand mining budget.
  • Mapping changing water turbidity levels or suspended sediment load and analysing their relationship with available river traffic density dataset (09/2017-12/2021).
  • Developing a workflow for multitemporal river extent mapping that can contribute to the analysis of riverbank erosion. There is potential to explore different methods, different satellite systems (Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2, LandSAT, PlanetScope) and multi-sensor analysis approaches.


  • Literature review and methodology design
  • Accuracy assessment of the developed approach
  • Generation and analysis of the multi-temporal product



  • Experience in using satellite remote sensing data
  • Good knowledge in scripting is a preference (e.g. R, Python, Google Earth Engine)

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring; Integrated Land Monitoring