Thursday, July 27 2017

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Mekong water diplomacy vital

Update: March, 07/2017 - 09:00
A sea dyke system in Cà Mau Province. — Photo baotainguyenmoitruong.vn

Dr Lê Anh Tuấn, deputy director of the Research Institute for Climate Change at Cần Thơ University, speaks to Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper about the negative impact of climate change.

Do you anticipate that in 2017 the Mekong Delta region will face a drought as severe as last year’s?

In my opinion, the weather in the dry season this year will not be as severe as that of last year. Of course, the region will still suffer the problem of fresh water shortage and salt water intrusion because the rainfall last year was low. That’s why right now the local government should seek measures to mitigate the negative impact for farmers.

Do you think such natural phenomena have become a natural cycle in the Mekong Delta?

Droughts have been occurring in the Mekong for years. The construction of many hydro-electric power plants on the river has resulted in scarcity of fresh water in the lower Mekong Delta. The reduction of alluvial soil at hydro dams has also had negative impacts on the quality of the fresh water at the lower end. In my opinion, these are problems that need proper attention from local authorities.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice were damaged and million of people lacked fresh water. What should we do now to limit those negative impacts?

Water shortage in the dry season will undoubtedly have severe negative consequences for agricultural production and the supply of fresh water to the population. To cope with the shortage of fresh water, we need synchronous measures – both long-term and short-term, including rain water storage and canal dredging. At the same time, we should encourage people to save fresh water in their daily use. We should recommend that farmers switch to crops that can stand drought and salt water.

In my opinion, there are indications of surplus rice production in the Mekong Delta. So in the context of severe drought and salination, it is imperative for authorities to consider reducing the rice growing areas in coastal provinces and rezoning the lands for cultivation of other crops. These two activities must be based on the available water resources in each locality.

Việt Nam must also pursue diplomatic measures with countries in the upper regions of the Mekong Delta in order to ensure the equal sharing of water benefits.

Climate change has also made much cultivated land barren and led to migration. How should we solve these two problems?

Water shortage, natural calamities, climate change and sea level rise, coupled with market challenges and social changes, have led to the problem of migration. This problem cannot be solved overnight. For the immediate and long-term future we need specific solutions to address the livelihoods of the local population.

First of all, we must identify who are the affected people and evaluate their level of vulnerability. We should find plant species or livestock that can stand the climate and evaluate their vulnerability. In addition, we should raise people’s awareness of the need to protect the environment.

All in all, in my opinion, we need a change in the rural development policy, regional linkage in production and livelihood diversification. In addition, there should be policies to support rural working people to improve their general knowledge and occupational skills. However, the most important element is to maintain a clean environment and not to deplete the rich natural resources.

Projections show that many regions in the Mekong Delta may soon be under water. Should we issue warnings to people living in these areas to migrate to higher ground?

The Government has already devised measures to cope with the problem of rising sea levels, but these will take years to implement due to the shortage of funding, human resources and a workable strategy.

In addition, it is imperative to develop different scenarios or projects on climate change with neighbouring countries.

Besides issuing warnings and raising awareness among residents and authorities to the negative impact of climate change in the Mekong Delta region, we should also think of developing plans for safe and sustainable re-settlement of those affected by rising sea levels.  VNS

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