|Farmers on Ly Son Island off central Quang Ngai Province tend to garlic plants during the drought. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Long
LY SON, QUANG NGAI (VNS) — Prolonged hot weather is killing garlic crops on the island of Ly Son off central Quang Ngai Province.
There has hardly been any rain this year on the island, known as the Kingdom of Garlic. So much underground water has been used that the water table has largely dried up.
Le Thanh Trung, 54, a resident of Dong Village in An Vinh Commune on the island, said that his family had four sao (one sao = 500sq.m. In northern Viet Nam, a sao is smaller 360sq.m) of arable land that he uses to grow garlic.
However, Trung told Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that the failure of a previous garlic crop had driven him to plant shallots.
Still, only a dozen days from harvesting, even the shallots are in desperate need of a drink. "If there is not enough water to irrigate, the crop will waste away," Trung said.
Farmers have to buy water at a cost of VND160,000 - 300,000 (US$8 -15) from people who have tapped into underground supplies..
But having money doesn't necessarily mean that water will come immediately. Sometimes, farmers have to wait from dawn to dust to be served.
As it is hot during the day, water pumping usually starts after the sun sets.
In the fields, the buzz of pumps can be heard from 7pm till 5am as farmers hold hoses to water throughout the night.
Huynh Van Toi, 34, living in Tay Village, An Vinh Commune, said sometimes he had to wait till near dawn for his turn to get water.
He said he has already spent several million dong (several hundred dollars) buying pumped water.
Toi said if the heat wave continued, he dared not plant anything more. To tap into underground supplies, farmers have spent hundreds of millions of dong digging and boring wells.
Nguyen Quang, 35, a Thon Tay villager, said although his family had three wells in use, they had decided to spend VND150 million ($7,500) digging a bigger well.
Quang said he was well aware that digging many wells would do harm to the water table, but he said farmers on the island had no choice.
Pham Thi Huong, vice chairwoman of Ly Son District People's Committee, said farmers had been told to use water efficiently and switch to crops that were drought-tolerant.
Authorities have also been told to supervise the digging of wells to keep underground water fresh and stop it becoming salty.
Phan Nhu Tuong, chairman of Tam Hai Commune, said the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment had agreed to invest in a water supply system for islanders next year.
The online newspaper Vnexpress reported that the number of wells and bores on the island had increased from 550 last year to 1,300 this year. — VNS