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South at risk of water shortage, forest fires

Update: May, 07/2015 - 09:00
The Da Bac floodgate in Binh Thuan Province is not operational because of low water levels. Local authorities have asked for funding to upgrade 25 seriously degraded dams so that they can store more water for the looming drought. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Thanh.

HCM CITY (VNS) — The Binh Thuan People's Committee has asked the Government for funds to upgrade 25 seriously degraded dams so that they can store more water as the central province reels from one of its worst droughts in a long time and dams are rapidly running out of water.

In three major dams — Ta Mon, Song Phan, and Tra Tan – water levels are very low while in many others it is at dead storage level, or below the lowest outlet. These reservoirs serve both agricultural and domestic use.

According to the Binh Thuan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the province's dams only have around 23 million cubic metres of water left, or 14 per cent of total capacity.

Water has run out completely in places like Tan Thang, Son My, Thang Hai, Tan Phuc, Song Phan, Tan Nghia, Tan Ha communes and Tan Minh town in Ham Tan District and in Vinh Tan and Vinh Hao communes of Tuy Phong District.

Many households in Ham Tan have to buy fresh water from the neighbouring province of Ba Ria - Vung Tau at high prices.

"A fifth of residents in remote areas have been lacking fresh water for the last two months," Do Huu Tri, deputy chairman of Ham Cuong Commune in Ham Thuan Nam District, has been quoted as saying by Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper.

Nguyen Thanh Cuong of Ham Cuong said, "We are waiting for rains because since early March my family has had to pay VND500,000 (US$23) a month for fresh water."

The province People's Committee has instructed the agriculture and rural development department to first provide water for people's daily use in Phan Thiet city and Bac Binh and Ham Thuan Bac districts before providing for animals and agriculture.

Areas that are unable to find new water sources will get funds to buy and transport water to supply poor and other disadvantaged households and beneficiaries of social programmes and explore further for water.

For the longer term, the province will seek Government funds for building and linking reservoirs and canals to ensure sustainable water supply.

Risk of fire

Meanwhile, in the southernmost province of Ca Mau, more than 38,000ha of forests are at high risk of fire, according to the provincial Department of Forest Protection.

The province's Steering Committee for Forest Protection and Development Plan has instructed local officials, forestry companies and forest owners to strengthen measures to prevent forest fires.

The province has mobilised thousands of people to monitor forest fires around the clock at 126 fire-watching towers, and set up 86 water pumping stations with 64km of pipes to lead water to important areas in forests.

Forest owners have also cleared more than 90km of roads through forests and 210km of canals to facilitate the task of monitoring forest fires.

Le Dung, deputy chairman of the provincial People's Committee, has ordered more inspections and has told people not to collect honey in forests. To collect honey, people use fire to chase bees away from their hives and it leads to forest fires.

Le Thanh Dung, deputy director of the U Minh Ha National Park, said the area at T27-90 Forest Protection Station is considered the national park's lowest area, but it is now completely dry.

Le Quoc Viet, head of the station, said the period of drought was expected to be long this year.

"Forests have been facing severe drought and we are staying up at night to monitor the areas," he said. — VNS

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