|To cope with the lack of water, the provincial Department of Agricultural and Rural Development asked Krong Pac District contractors to build 1,500km of canals to bring water from Krong Puc Ha to irrigate 600ha of rice. — VNÁ/VNS Photo Duong Giang
DAK LAK (VNS) — Local authorities and people dredged canals and pumped water from rivers and dams to save crops in Dak Lak Province, which is facing a lengthy drought.
To cope with the lack of water, the provincial Department of Agricultural and Rural Development asked Krong Pac District contractors to build 1,500km of canals to bring water from Krong Puc Ha to irrigate 600ha of rice.
The district authority instructed the contractors to discharge water from Krong Buk Ha to Nuoc Duc Stream to irrigate the lowlands. Also, Krong Ana District has pumped water from Serepok River to streams and ponds to water the rice fields.
Nguyen Hoai Duong, the department's deputy director, said that if the severe drought continued, 4,000ha of crops would be destroyed and 6,000 households with 30,000 people would face a serious water shortage by the end of the month.
The long-lasting drought in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) area has lost the agriculture sector VND1 trillion (roughly US$50 million) so far, according to the department. It has also resulted in a lack of clean water for 15,000 people and damaged 32,000ha of crops.
The Dak Lak Water Supply and Construction Investment Company in Buon Ma Thuot City has met 75 per cent of demand for water. In recent months residents have had to travel several kilometres to buy water at high prices for their daily use, according to the department.
The Ea M'droh Stream, which provides water for hundreds of hectares of coffee and rice for Ea M'droh Commune, dried up in early February.
Mai Trong Dung, the department's vice director, said that as of April the province's 102 irrigation systems, reservoirs, rivers and streams had dried up.
According to the provincial industry and commerce department, hydro-power reservoir water levels had dropped dramatically, causing a reduction in power productivity.
Some plants produced power for just three hours a day. Notably, the Ea Drang hydro-power plant stopped working on February 16.
If the drought should intensify, agricultural experts advised local authorities to give up on efforts to save rice and vegetable plants that didn't have much of a chance of surviving.
Water should be saved for the long-term, high-value industrial crops, experts said.
Forests are burning and tens of thousands of households face a severe shortage of fresh water in the Mekong Delta, where the dry season and saltwater intrusion from the sea are at their peak.
"Forests in Kien Giang Province face a threat of fire because it has been hot for long and there is no more water," Truong Thanh Hao, deputy head of the province's Forest Protection Department, told Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.
According to the department, around 10,000ha of forests on Phu Quoc Island, the Long Xuyen quadrangle, and U Minh Thuong face a severe threat of fire.
In Long An and Ca Mau provinces another 30,000ha and 25,000ha of forest respectively are threatened, while in the latter province 37,000ha have been hit by drought.
"We have to focus on stopping fires as soon as they break out," Nguyen Van Hai, head of the Ca Mau Forest Protection Department, said.
Tran Van Hieu, director of U Minh Ha Forestry Limited Company, said his company had 2,000 people ready 24 hours a day to put out fires.
The fresh water shortage for household use too has become crippling.
In Tien Giang Province, saltwater has encroached 50km upstream from the sea and the 50,000 people on Tan Phu Dong Isle do not have enough fresh water. On Monday a 900cu.m barge was dispatched there with water.
More water is planned to be supplied to the isle until the end of April at a cost of over VND1 billion (US$50,000).
In Soc Trang and Hau Giang provinces, dyke gates have been closed to keep out saltwater, but authorities continue to warn that through April, both the drought and saltwater intrusion worsen and affect thousands of hectares of rice. — VNS