CUU LONG DELTA (VNS)— With the rainy season to end soon, water levels in many canals in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are much lower than normal, sparking fears among locals that this will hit farming and drinking-water needs.
|Cay Bau Canal is dredged ahead of the dry season in Chau Thanh District, Long An Province. The Mekong Delta might face drought due to a short rainy season. — VNA/VNS Photo Pham Do
Le Van Lam, 61, of Dong Thap Province's Tan Hong District, said: "The weather this year was abnormal, with the lowest flood level in several decades, affecting agriculture."
In many water bodies in Tan Hong, an upstream district, levels are very low, 1-1.7 metres lower than last year.
Phung Thanh Hai, chairman of the local People's Committee, said: "The district may face water shortages at the end of the winter-spring [rice] crop. The summer-autumn crop may face even more acute water shortages."
This could raise costs of the winter - spring crop by four or five times and yields would be lower than normal, he said.
The Southern Irrigation Planning Institute has warned that the delta will face acute fresh water shortages in the dry season this year.
With water levels low in rivers and canals, seawater encroachment is expected to be worse than normal. So farmers have been told to finish planting the winter-spring rice crop by early December.
In 2010 some 100,000ha of rice fields, especially along the coast, were badly affected by the incursion of seawater.
According to the Southern Meteorology and Hydrology Bureau, the dry season has virtually ended in the south. The record high tides this year, especially in October, have brought seawater into the mainland.
But since water levels in rivers remain high, seawater infiltration has been kept in check.
But this is expected to change by December or January.
In the 2011-12 dry season, seawater penetrated 55-60km upstream into the delta.
It is expected to be worse this year and occur earlier.
Tran Trung Hien, director of the southern Tra Vinh Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "According to forecasts, as less floodwaters enter the rivers, seawater could enter the rivers earlier and affect the region more badly."
To mitigate losses, his department has told farmers to finish sowing 51,000ha of winter-spring rice crop earlier than usual. The province's irrigation works, especially the South Mang Thit System, are skilfully operated to conserve water and prevent seawater infiltration to better protect cultivated lands.
Tran Quang Cui, deputy director of the southern Kien Giang Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers have sowed nearly 85,000ha out of 269,000ha normally under the winter-spring rice crop, mainly in the West Hau River Area, U Minh Thuong, and the districts of Giang Thanh and Hon Dat. About 200,000ha will be sown in November and the remaining in early December. Meanwhile, 27 seawater-proof dykes have been closed to conserve water for rice fields in the provinces of An Giang and Kien Giang. —VNS