|High sea water levels and strong winds over three months (October 2014 to January 2015) have severely eroded the Con Ngoai coast in Thanh Hai Village, Bao Thuan Commune, Ben Tre Province, demaging houses and roads and submerging mangrove forests. — VNA/VNS Photo Van Tri
HCM CITY (VNS) — Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai yesterday praised the international community's effort in supporting Viet Nam's pursuit of sustainable development in the Mekong Delta, an area vulnerable to climate change and sea level rises.
Hai spoke at the Mekong Delta Forum organised under support from the World Bank and the Australian and Dutch governments. It was attended by local and international experts and representatives from 13 provinces and cities of the delta.
"We give priority for sustainable development for this area. With its importance, the region should receive such special care," Hai said, adding that the Mekong Delta plays a strategic role in food security and sustainable development of the southern region and the country.
The deputy prime minister praised the Dutch government's support in creating the Mekong Delta Plan, which contains a long-term vision and strategy for a safe, prosperous and sustainable delta.
The Mekong Delta, which includes only 20 percent of the country's population and 13 percent of its land area, contributes more than 50 percent of total rice production, 70 percent of fruit harvest, 90 percent of rice exports and 70 percent of seafood turnover.
However, the region is facing serious challenges related to water sources, saline intrusions and other impacts from climate change.
The issue is a great challenge to Viet Nam's socio-economic development, said the deputy prime minister.
At the forum, Hai urged officials, local and international experts to seek measures to strengthen natural disaster forecasting, sanility intrusion, investigation of landslide, sea dyke systems, mangrove forest developments and others.
Victoria KwaKwa, country director of World Bank Viet Nam, said the country had made significant socio-economic progress in recent decades and that the Mekong Delta had been a key part of this progress.
The Mekong Delta is the food basket of Viet Nam, and plays a critical role in maintaining regional food security.
The Delta's agricultural lands, growing cities, networked waterways and coastal areas sustain the population and economy of the region.
"However, the Delta's 18 million people face new challenges from ongoing development and climate change as they seek improved and sustainable livelihoods," she said.
While the Delta produces 50 percent of the country's rice and 70 percent of its aquaculture products, almost 20 percent of the country's poorest people live there.
Groundwater extraction causing land subsidence, climate change leading to sea level rise, salinity intrusion and flooding are all on the rise and coastal storms occasionally affect the Delta, she said at the forum.
"The upstream development is altering the hydrology and sediment regime and impacting fish migration. Many of these are expected to be exacerbated in the future, as development pressures, investments and climate change intensifies," she said.
The forum was organised to facilitate an open discussion about different resilient investments, Delta development objectives, and development trade-offs across sectors.
Participants discussed innovative solutions for securing the future of the delta, as well as building resilience in the Mekong and helping countries like Viet Nam make climate-smart choices, which are long-term, integrated and adaptive.
At the forum which will wrap up today, Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, shared other participants' opinions that climate change and sea level rise are seriously threatening the sustainable development of the region.
"For sustainable agriculture and rural development, the Mekong Delta has to overcome existing challenges, and should intensify agricultural restructuring, together with the development of New Rural Areas with close multi-industry linkages," Phat said. — VNS