Mekong Basin countries need regional climate-change strategy: scientists

Update: July, 14/2016 - 20:00

HẬU GIANG — Scientists and government officials have urged stronger connectivity among countries through which the Mekong River flows to enhance adaptation to climate change and reduce its effects such as saline intrusion and drought.   

Speaking at a meeting held in Hậu Giang Province on Wednesday (July 13), Hoàng Văn Thắng, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the Mekong Delta faced numerous challenges besides rising sea levels, including over-exploitation of natural resources.

Thắng suggested that the government offer a special policy for the delta’s development, including investment in infrastructure development and forest protection and restoration, especially coastal forests.

There is still no project that plays a significant role in connecting provinces in the Mekong Delta to fight drought and climate change. Each province has its own project with different methods used to prevent saline intrusion.

Nguyễn Văn Đồng, director of Hậu Giang Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, suggested construction of a system in the Western sea to protect Hậu Giang and other Mekong Delta provinces from saline intrusion.

The Cà Mau Peninsula is expected to invest in a dyke system along the Cái Lớn - Cái Bé River to prevent saline water intrusion.

At the same time, other provinces in the delta need to build sluice gates and dykes to regulate and control salt water, and maintain fresh water for agricultural production and household use, Đồng said.

For the western sea in Kiên Giang, there should be a system taking fresh water from Hậu River for agricultural development, he said, adding that the situation was serious as farmers lacked equipment to check the salinity rate in water used on their farms.

Associate Professor Trịnh Công Vấn, head of Mekong Water Technology Innovation Institute, said the dredging of the canal and river system in the Mekong Delta was essential to maintain sustainable development.

He urged local and central governments to invest more in dredging the river system to prevent drought and saline intrusion.

In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development needs to build a scheme to upgrade the canal and river system in the Mekong Delta.

Dr Trịnh Nhất Hằng, of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said that more reservoirs were needed to contain fresh water, canals and a pipeline system. Gardens and farms should have small reservoirs to meet water demand.

The institute has begun to create fruit strains resilient to drought, salty water and inclement weather conditions.

Professor Nguyễn Ngọc Trân, a well-known researcher, suggested building equipment to use water resources of six riparian countries along the river.

The recent drought, the worst in 100 years, affected most provinces in the delta, causing a negative impact on tourism, water resources, ecological systems, human health and agriculture.

Saline water has intruded into fruit farms in Bến Tre, Vĩnh Long, Tiền Giang, Trà Vinh, Hậu Giang, Sóc Trăng and others with a total area of 9,400 hectares affected.

The delta has 208,000 hectares of paddy that could incur losses.

More than 60 per cent of the area has faced serious losses and some areas faced total losses. More than 2,000 hectares of water surface for aquaculture have been affected.

Several successful solutions have been carried out to deal with drought, but a long-term strategy is needed. — VNS