|The Phú Long sluice prevents saltwater intrusion in rivers in Tiền Giang Province’s Châu Thành District. – VNA/VNS Photo Minh Trí|
TIỀN GIANG – The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Tiền Giang is taking proactive measures to protect fruit growing areas from the saltwater intrusion that occurs routinely in rivers in the dry season.
The country’s largest fruit producing province has many areas that grow high-value fruits like durian, green skin and pink flesh grapefruit and Lò Rèn milk apple mainly for export.
They are mostly in Cai Lậy and Châu Thành districts and Cai Lậy Town, which are usually affected between December and April.
This dry season the saltwater intrusion is forecast to be deep into rivers starting at the end of this month.
The administration is building four sluices along the north of the Tiền River, a tributary of the Mekong, to keep out the saltwater and store freshwater at a cost of VNĐ864 billion (US$36.2 million).
It has dredged irrigation canals, upgraded existing saltwater prevention sluices and built new ones this year.
Cai Lậy Town has dredged canals to secure irrigation of nearly 15,000ha of specialty fruits such as durian and Thai jackfruit.
Đoàn Bảo Ngoan, deputy chairman of the town People’s Committee, has instructed communes and wards to strengthen advocacy to ensure farmers store water in ponds in their orchards, keep it clean and use it efficiently.
Cai Lậy District is set to dredge 61km of canals and build saltwater prevention works at an estimated VNĐ23.1 billion ($900,000) this dry season.
Saltwater intrusion in rivers has increased in recent days, according to local authorities.
Nguyễn Văn Thật, deputy chairman of the Tam Bình Commune People’s Committee in Cai Lậy District, said officials are carefully monitoring the salinity in the river to take prompt action if needed.
The commune is determined to prevent losses to agriculture and adverse effects on people’s lives, he said.
Thái Văn Lộc, who owns a 0.7ha durian orchard in Tam Bình, said in 2020 more than half of his trees died because of saltwater and he had to get a bank loan of VNĐ400 million ($17,000) to replant them.
His trees are fruiting now and he is taking all possible measures to protect them from saltwater, he said.
“I am storing 4,000cu.m of water in ponds in my orchard, and when the salinity rate becomes too high, the water can be used for irrigation for one and a half months.”
The salinity rates in the downstream areas of the Tiền River peaked on February 18-20, according to the province’s Centre for Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting.
They reached 0.4-0.6 per cent at the Xuân Hoà Sluice in Chợ Gạo District and 0.5-1.5 per cent at the Xoài Hột Sluice in Châu Thành District, it said.
Most plants can only tolerate up to 0.1 per cent.
The province has more than 82,000ha of orchards and an annual fruit output of 1.61 million tonnes, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. VNS