Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s Vice Spokesperson Phạm Thu Hằng . — File Photo
HÀ NỘI (VNS) — Việt Nam welcomed China’s plan to release water from Jinghong Hydropower Station reservoir into lower Mekong River from March 15 to April 4 to deal with drought in Việt Nam.
The statement was made by Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s Vice Spokesperson Phạm Thu Hằng yesterday.
Earlier, Việt Nam proposed to China that they increase the outflow from the Jinghong Hydropower Station to the lower reaches of the Mekong River to cope with the drought and salt intrusion in a number of the Mekong Delta provinces in Việt Nam.
“We held that the protection and sustainable use of water in the Mekong River is the responsibility shared by countries along the river to harmonise the interests of relevant nations and lives of regional people,” the vice spokeswoman said.
Across the Mekong Delta region – Việt Nam’s largest rice producer – as many as 140,000 hectares (ha) of rice has been damaged so far, nearly 90,000ha of which has resulted in a 70 per cent loss of the crop.
In the 2015-2016 winter-spring crop, there are 339,200ha of rice in coastal Mekong Delta provinces prone to saltwater intrusion and drought, accounting for 21.9 per cent of the region’s total rice area, 104,000ha of which have already been severely impacted.
If the drought continues till June, nearly 500,000ha of rice will have to remain unsown, equivalent to over 40 per cent of the total area of coastal provinces and 30 per cent of the overall cultivation acreage in the region.
More than 150,000 regional households comprising 600,000 people are lacking fresh water.
Barges to transport fresh water
In the Mekong Delta, Tiền Giang Province plans to use barges to transport fresh water to people in Tân Phú Đông Island District, bordering the East Sea, who are experiencing an alarming water shortage.
Tiền Giang is among the provinces that have been the hardest-hit by saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta region.
Nguyễn Thiện Pháp, head of the provincial sub-department of irrigation, flood, storm prevention and control, said the province would invest about VNĐ13.5 billion (US$607,500) to buy four barges to carry 433,000cu.m of water from Mỹ Tho City to Tân Phú Đông Island District.
The work will continue during the peak dry season months.
The barges will be anchored on the Cửu Tiểu River and will pump water to the reservoirs of Phú Thanh Water Station to help nearly 2,800 households.
Pháp said the province had opened 19 taps to supply free fresh water to local residents this early dry season. However, many people reportedly had to buy fresh water at a high cost.
He said the province was considering to invest VNĐ68 billion ($3.06 million) in installing a 10km-long pipeline from the Cửa Tiểu River to the island district to ensure water supply.
If it’s approved, the project would begin this June, he said.
In Bạc Liêu Province, more than 20,000ha of crops are facing water shortage.
Salt water has covered Phước Long and Hồng Dân districts.
Farmers have been asked to dredge interior canals and build 476 dams with a total length of 14,770m to increase fresh water reserves.
Hydro power plants closed
Meanwhile, 15 of a total of 51 hydropower plants in the central region and Central Highlands provinces have had to stop operations because of severe drought.
According to the latest report from the National Electricity Grid Load Dispatch Centre, severe drought has forced hydropower plants from releasing water for agricultural production and daily consumption in downstream regions.
“Since December, our three power plants on the Sêrêpôk river, including Buôn Tua Srah, Buôn Kuốp and Sêrêpôk 3, have stopped operating,” Văn Thiên Nhân, director of Đắk Lắk Province’s Buôn Kốp Hydropower Plant, said on a government website.
Water flow into three reservoirs of these plants range from 19 to 70 cubic metres each second. If the plants were allowed to generate electricity, water would only last for two to three months.
In addition, the A Vương hydropower plant in the central province of Quảng Nam has not been operating for two months.
“Our plant was told to generate 530 million kWh in 2016 by the Ministry of Industry and Trade but right now, we only have 3.9 million kWh, or 0.7 per cent of our yearly-plan,” deputy director Lê Đình Bản said.
At the end of 2015, a decision was issued that allowed the chairman of the provincial People’s Committee to decide whether hydropower plants can keep water to generate electricity or release water for agricultural production downstream.
Downstream residents were less angry about the situation after the decision was issued.
“The A Vương reservoir might generate electricity as the water level is over 2.5 m. We submitted two solutions: our hydropower plant would continue to generate electricity or the reservoir would close to preserve water. The final decision depends on the People’s Committee decision,” Bản added.
“We have recognised that it is very difficult to ask hydropower plants to offer competitive prices for markets, but they have to decide to operate based on the drought situation,” Trương Công Hồng, deputy director of the Central Highlands province of Đắk Lắk, said. — VNS