|A stretch of the Mekong River in Can Tho City. Local residents are worried about the impacts of water degradation in the Mekong River.— VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
AN GIANG (VNS)— Residents living in the Mekong River basin are expressing concerns over water degradation in the Mekong river and its impact on farming, aquaculture and the livelihood of the millions of people who live in the region.
People from Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam's Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta raised concerns yesterday at a forum held by the Viet Nam River Network, Save the Mekong, the Southern Institute of Ecology and An Giang University, saying that their lives have changed negatively due to the changes in the river's water level.
They asked scientists, policymakers and governments to find proper solutions to balance the use of water between countries and sectors in order to ensure their livelihood and the future of the basin in the coming decades.
There are currently five big dams in operation along the Mekong river with 12 more dams proposed, which are expected to take a huge volume of water from the river, change its natural flow and destroy the fish habitat.
More than 130 scientists, farmers and officials from related agencies joined the forum. Representing farmers from Ca Mau Province, in the country's southern-end, Huynh Thi Kim Duyen said she and local residents have observed more erosion to the river banks in their neighbourhood.
Duyen, who is a member of the province's Women's Association and also a farmer, is aware of the change of natural flow resulting in erosion, giving no conclusion in the changes over upper power dams or impact the impact on climate change.
However, she noted that a small dam built on Quang Lo - Phung Hiep has turned the canal into a dead one. "I think the bigger dams would worsen the impact of the rivers that are tributaries of the Mekong River," she said.
"Erosion and declining fish populations have affected the lives of locals. People have to migrate from the erosion prone sites and move to urban areas to find jobs," Duyen also said.
Kong Chanthy, a Cambodian farmer said similar situations have also happened in his community. Lower water volume in the Mekong River has affected his cultivation, while increasing pollution has hindered his aquaculture.
Research over the last five years has shown that income from agroproducts and fishing by residents living in the basin have fallen critically. Omboun Thipsuna, representing seven of Thailand's north-eastern provinces, blamed power dams for causing the unnatural, sudden floods and the unexpected droughts that happen in the provinces.
Thipsuna said changes in the water volume along the Mekong Delta has affected the livelihood of farmers and fishermen. In Bung Kan, for example, the average income from fishing declined from 37,000 THB (US$1,200) to 5,000 THB ($166) a year in the past five years. Meanwhile, agricultural income dropped from 3,800 THB to 28,800 THB a year.
Speaking at the forum, Dr Duong Van Ni of Can Tho University confirmed the phenomenon observed by farmers and fishermen. "Water in the Mekong River has shown signs of changes in water volume and water quality," he said.
"Fish populations have fallen by one third recently," he added, according to research he conducted in Cambodia and Viet Nam. Ni forecasted a critical shortage of water for cultivation in Cambodia's Tonle Sap and Viet Nam's Cuu Long (Mekong) deltas.
Experts at the forum said power dams have changed the water volume and water flow of the Mekong River and concerns by residents living in the river basin are reasonable. They are calling governments and policymakers to sit down together to reach an agreement on how to properly share water from the river. — VNS