|A farmer in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak pours fuel into a water pump to irrigate his field. Over 1,000 ha of crop in the province lacks water. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Giang
HCM CITY (VNS) — Severe drought and the resultant intrusion of seawater tides deep into the Mekong Delta are badly affecting the daily life of people there.
According to the Southern Hydrometeorology Station, saltwater has entered up to 60km in some places — with the highest salinity levels recorded in the provinces of Kien Giang, An Giang and Soc Trang — despite the fact that all dykes in the Long Xuyen quadrangular region remain closed to prevent just this eventuality.
In island communes in Kien Hai District, Kien Giang Province, shortage of freshwater has reached alarming levels.
"Thousands of residents in Nam Du island commune have been suffering from a lack of freshwater for several months," Ngo Thi Khoi, an official at the Nam Du Commune People's Committee office, was quoted as saying in the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.
Efforts to save freshwater are being made but wells in houses have mostly dried up, and most residents get water from neighbouring An Son Island – which has many large wells and a reservoir - for VND150,000 (US$7) per cubic metre.
But the 30,000cu.m reservoir on An Son is also running out of water.
Some residents on the two islands have resorted to getting bottled water from the mainland at VND25,000 ($1.2) per litre, 50 times the normal price.
Due to the lack of water, people are unable to grow fruits or vegetables, and obtain them from the mainland at high prices.
Ben Tre, a delta province that has several large river mouths like Cua Dai, Ham Luong, Co Chien, has also been hit by saltwater intrusion for up to 60 km in the districts of Ba Tri, Cho Lach, and Chau Thanh.
Many water supply plants have been affected by the saltwater, and locals pay for fresh water but have to make do with salty water.
"Saltwater is threatening the province's fruit crops, bonsai and seed cultivation on around 10,000 hectares," Bui Thanh Liem, head of the Cho Lach District Agriculture and Rural Development Division, said.
Six communes in the north of the districts along the Co Chien river — Hung Khanh Trung, Vinh Thanh, Phu Son, Long Thoi, Tan Thieng, and Vinh Hoa — are suffering the most.
Since early this dry season the irrigation and dyke systems have been bolstered to prevent saltwater intrusion and farmers have been warned to preserve freshwater for cultivation, but authorities have not said how effective the measures have been.
The salinity is measured every day and farmers are advised.
Meanwhile, in the Central Highlands, the Dak Lak Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has said that if the severe heat and drought continues through March, 27,000 hectares of rice and coffee will be lost due to lack of water.
Some 4,300 hectares have been affected by the drought.
Around 1,000 households in Krong Pak, Krong Bong, Krong Nang, and Lak districts lack water for daily use.
The situation is expected to worsen, affecting 6,000 households in seven districts by the end of this month. — VNS