|Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc speaks at the third conference on climate-resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong Delta in Cần Thơ City on Saturday. VNA/VNS Photo Thống Nhất
CẦN THƠ — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has stressed the strategic importance of the Mekong Delta as it accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s rice exports but is facing critical challenges posed by climate change.
At a conference on climate-resilient and sustainable development of the delta in Cần Thơ City on Saturday, the Prime Minister urged attendees to continue identifying challenges caused by climate change, and to implement top-priority projects in a timely manner.
Forty per cent of the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta region will be under water by 2100 due to the impact of climate change unless serious measures are taken immediately, experts have warned.
Caitlin Wiesen, country director of UNDP Việt Nam, said the delta, home to 17 million people, is Việt Nam’s most important agricultural region. Producing 55 per cent of the country’s rice, the region feeds more than 245 million people around the world.
“The area is vital for food security in Việt Nam and neighbouring countries within the region and beyond as well,” she said.
The delta is also the country’s third largest industrial region after the metropolitan areas of HCM City and Hà Nội.
However, the delta is facing existential threats, including rising sea levels, coastal erosion, landslides, and drought.
According to studies, 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta could be underwater by 2100, with half of its population affected. Some areas of the coast are already eroding at a rate of more than 30 metres a year.
In 2016, the region suffered the worst drought in 90 years, which, together with rising sea levels, led to a heavy intrusion of saltwater into rice-growing areas.
The mangrove forests along the coast, which protect the hinterland from floods and storms, are also in dramatic decline.
All of these problems have threatened the region’s ability to provide essential ecosystem services on which the communities of the delta and millions of people around the world depend.
She said that integrated planning and governance were needed.
“It is important to look at resources not from one area within the region but how they are engaged together,” she said. “Community engagement is extremely important as they are on the frontlines.”
The UNDP is working with local communities and government to strengthen regional governance to ensure that people affected by climate change will benefit in the future as part of the new master plan for the Mekong Delta from 2021 to 2030.
Speaking at the conference in Cần Thơ, Trương Hòa Bình, permanent Deputy Prime Minister, said that Government Resolution 120 issued in 2017 set out a long-term strategy for sustainable development, focusing on strengthening linkages between localities to combat climate change.
After more than three years of implementation, the resolution has helped to attract investment in “green” agriculture, improve value chains, and create a foothold for agricultural products in the world market.
Large-scale concentrated agriculture production areas have been formed with key agricultural products such as shrimp, pangasius, rice and fruit. Processing technology has also been improved, helping to create value chains for agricultural products.
Rice cultivation, including world-famous brands, covers 4.19 million hectares in the delta, accounting for 54.3 per cent of the country’s total rice growing area.
The region has more than 335,400 hectares of fruit trees, accounting for 36.3 per cent of the country’s fruit area, including major crops such as dragon fruit, mango, orange, pomelo, rambutan, longan, durian and pineapple.
Carolyn Turk, World Bank country director in Việt Nam, said that Resolution 120 was a big step forward in setting the basis for coordinated action for sustainable development in the Mekong Delta.
During the 2015-2020 period, the World Bank in Việt Nam mobilised US$2.2 billion for research and investment activities in the region.
She said the Mekong Delta was a testament to the Vietnamese government’s new ways of thinking and approach to sustainable development.
“Mitigation and adaptation-solutions are needed for stronger prevention of the impacts of climate change,” she added.
She pledged to continue to work with the Government through a strong partnership for a sustainable, prosperous and climate-resilient Mekong Delta.
Also speaking at the event, Minister of Transport Nguyễn Văn Thể said in the 2016-2021 period, the ministry invested in 31 transportation projects worth VNĐ88.963 trillion in the region.
The ministry has also prepared financing for 37 new projects (road, maritime, inland waterways and aviation) with total investment of VNĐ182.7 trillion in the coming time.
Concluding the conference, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc emphasised that the quality of the workforce and the actions of each ministry and locality will be decisive factors for the sustainable and climate-resilient development of the region.
Mentioning the “8G” viewpoint on the Mekong Delta’s development to be given more attention in the revised Resolution 120, the Vietnamese Government leader said the first “G” is “Giao thông” (traffic), elaborating that resources must be prioritised for developing the traffic system to facilitate travel and economic activities.
The second “G” is “Giáo dục” (education), which he described as the “golden key” to sustainable development.
Meanwhile, the third is “Giang” (rivers), he noted, adding that development strategies should make use of local rivers to promote agriculture and aquaculture as well as waterway traffic and logistics, and that there should be a study of river-based economic activities.
PM Phúc also pointed out the necessity of “Gắn” (connecting), which means connecting central agencies with localities, people with businesses, domestic parties with international organisations, and especially, intra-regional connectivity between the 13 provincial-level localities in the Mekong Delta itself.
In his remarks, the Government leader also recommended the localities attract “Gìau” (rich) and “Giỏi” (talented) people and businesses who will contribute to local development.
Besides, “già” (ageing) is now a challenge to the Mekong Delta, where the speed of population ageing is faster than the national average, PM Phúc added, asking for proactive policies on this issue, especially in terms of social welfare for the elderly and the disadvantaged.
The last “G” is “Giới” (gender), PM Phúc went on, underlining the importance of enhancing gender equality, boosting women’s access to job opportunities, and bringing into play their role. — VNS