|A section of Ba Kep Canal in Mekong Delta Soc Trang Province's Dai An 2 Commune is hit by both drought and saltwater intrusion. The national agricultural sector is working hard to help delta farmers battle the historic drought and saltwater intrusion.— VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
HA NOI (VNS) — The national agriculture sector is working to restructure the cultivation schedule to save water, grow saltwater-resistant crops and trees, and efficiently use irrigation water in order to help millions of farmers in the Mekong Delta confront the worst drought and saltwater intrusion in 90 years.
The National Centre for Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting predicts the drought and saltwater intrusion will last until June.
The Water Resource Directorate under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Thursday sent an urgent message to agricultural department heads of 11 Mekong Delta provinces, urging them to warn local farmers about recurring saltwater intrusion with salinity content registering 4 grammes per litre of water between February 25 and March 7. The permitted salinity level is less than than 250 milligrammes per litre.
The directorate advised local farmers to take fresh water to be used for both irrigation and daily purposes from river sections about 30 to 45km away from the mouth of the Mekong River when low and medium tides occur.
Nguyen Van Dong, Director of Mekong Delta Hau Giang Province's Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said all local rice fields are threatened by the drought and saltwater intrusion.
Thus, the local administration had mobilised all sources in an attempt to tackle the problem. It directed units to reinforce dykes when the salinity surpasses 2 grammes per litre, Dong said.
Lu Van Hung, Chairman of the provincial People's Committee, said efforts are being taken to drill new wells to be used as water sources and build reservoirs to store water.
Heads of districts and communes will be held responsible if they fail to obey the committee's directions, he said.
The province also plans to plant a new type of saltwater-resistant rice.
Statistics of the Mekong Delta's Tien Giang Province show that about 9,000 households are living in areas hit by drought and saltwater during the ongoing dry season (from November to April).
In response to the situation, the province has opened an additional 141 public taps to provide water to the households.
A 6.3km pipe system has been promptly constructed to supply 1,200cu.m of water daily to local residents in the communes of Binh Dong and Binh Xuan, which have been suffering the most from water shortages.
In terms of long-term action, the Government and the Ministry of Planning and Investment have mobilised official development assistance (ODA) sources totaling about US$500 million to upgrade the delta's dyke and saltwater-resistance drainage systems.
The agriculture ministry also called upon research institutes and scientists to study and test new types of rice that could resist saltwater as a long-term solution to the problem.
Initial statistics from the Mekong Delta provinces reveal that drought and saltwater intrusion have caused an estimated loss of about VND150 trillion ($6.7 billion) for the delta so far, and the losses are expected to continue surmounting until June.
Deputy Minister Le Quoc Doanh said a total of nearly 340,000ha of winter-spring rice crops were affected by the drought and saltwater intrusion, accounting for 35.5 per cent of the delta's total cultivation area during the winter-spring season.
The ongoing El Nino, which began in 2014 and is considered one of the most intense weather phenomena in at least two decades, was blamed for the severe drought and saltwater intrusion. It also caused rainfall to drop by 10-40 per cent compared to previous years, according to Dao Trong Tu, a senior water expert. — VNS