|Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng has askes ministries and sectors to release water from hydropower dams upstream of the Mekong Delta to release more fresh water in the dry season. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam|
CẦN THƠ – Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng has asked ministries and sectors to prepare a diplomatic note to China, asking them to release water from hydropower dams upstream of the Mekong Delta to release more fresh water in the dry season.
The prime minister made the suggestion while working with leaders of 11 Mekong Delta’s provinces with serious saline intrusion yesterday in Cần Thơ.
Saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta is caused by various factors, including dam building activities upstream of the Mekong River, limiting water flow to the delta, Dũng said.
At the conference, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Đức Phát predicted that saline intrusion would be more serious this month and April, directly affecting agricultural production in the delta.
A total of 139,000 hectares of winter – spring paddy crop has been affected and 86,000 hectares of the amount had a loss of over 70 percent of yield. About 43,000 hectares suffered a loss of 30 – 70 percent.
Provinces facing the most serious loss were Cà Mau, Kiên Giang, Bạc Liêu and Bến Tre.
If drought lasts until June this year, a total of 500,000 hectares of paddy of summer – autumn crop in the delta will be cultivated late due to water shortages.
According to statistics from Tiền Giang province’s People’s Committee, 1,020 hectares of paddy farm in Gò Công coastal town face complete loss due to saline intrusion.
Despite efforts of local residents and authorities in preventing drought and saline intrusion, the farmland losses are predicted to increase to 2,000 hectares.
Additionally, 7,000 hectares of winter – spring paddy crop in Gò Công Đông, Gò Công Tây districts and Gò Công town face a loss of between 20 and 50 percent.
In Kiên Giang province, besides the loss of 34,000 hectares paddy in An Minh, An Biên, Vĩnh Thuận and U Minh Thượng districts, salt water threatens thousands of hectares of paddy farm in Hòn Đất district.
Nguyễn Văn Phát, vice chairman of Bình Giang Commune’s People’s Committee in Hòn Đất, said 1,000 hectares of winter – spring crop faced a loss of VNĐ15 million to VNĐ20 million per hectare.
Six provinces in Mekong Delta have announced a natural disaster situation because of drought and salinity intrusion, and have asked for support from the government.
Other regions, including South Central, Central Highlands and the southeast, were the hardest hit. It is predicted that the El Nino weather phenomenon will last until mid-year.
Severe tap water shortage
Beside huge losses in the agricultural sector, residents of the Mekong Delta face severe tap water shortage due to serious saline intrusion in the delta in history.
It is estimated that more than 155,000 households with 575,000 people are facing a tap water shortage in the delta.
“The problem is not only faced by households, but also hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and factories in Bến Tre,” said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Đức Phát.
In Tiền Giang province, 45,000 people in Tân Phú Đông islet district have a tap water shortage. It is expected that clean water will be brought from Mỹ Tho city by barge.
Residents in other provinces in the Mekong Delta including Cà Mau, Kiên Giang, Trà Vinh, Hậu Giang, Long An, Bạc Liêu are facing the same situation.
Beside climate change and sea level rise and the shortage of water level from Mekong River’s upstream, El Nino has shortened the rainy season, creating the most serious drought since the past 90 years. Saline intrusion came two months earlier than usual.
The water flow from upstream of the Mekong River has fallen significantly. The water level in Tonlé Sap has reduced by 2.8 meters, making water flow to Mekong Delta fall by 50 percent.
According to experts, saline intrusion will last until June this year. From this month, areas 30 and 45 kilometres from the coastline will not have fresh water, affecting production and household use.
The saline rate in water taken from areas 30 and 45 kilometres from the coastline will be above 4 grams per litre.
Prime Minister Dũng has outlined three scenarios that could be used in confronting the serious saline intrusion.
For unaffected areas, farmers should begin their new crop. At areas partly intruded by salt water, irrigation projects should be built quickly. For areas badly affected by saline intrusion, crops should not be cultivated, said the prime minister.
He asked local governments to help farmers improve the aquaculture sector.
“Challenges always imply opportunities. The important thing is that we are able to see it and make it an advantage. If shrimp cultivation techniques are given to farmers, shrimp sold at high prices will compensate for the loss for paddy,” Dũng said.
At the meeting, Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng asked the State Bank of Việt Nam to delay debt to farmers whose crop suffered losses from saline intrusion and to loan them capital for the next crop.
Minister Phát, who praised the local residents’ effort in saline intrusion prevention, suggested that the government give VNĐ2 million (US$90) per hectare for farmers facing losses of over 70 percent.
For the winter – spring crop of 2015 and 2016, the total suggested budget to assist farmers was VNĐ623 billion (US$23.8 million).
He also suggested allocating VNĐ1.06 trillion for the period of 2016-2020 to build irrigation projects to prevent drought and saline intrusion.
According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, total funds needed to invest in irrigation works in the Mekong Delta to combat climate change and sea level rises for the 2012-2020 period are VNĐ90 trillion (US$4 billion).
In the 2011 – 2012 period, VNĐ16.5 trillion (US$750 million) was allocated. It is estimated that in the 2016 – 2020 period, VNĐ31 trillion (US$1.4 billion) will be funded. VNS