Thousands of hectares of rice fields in the southern region of Vietnam have been damaged by saltwater intrusion and the most severe drought in 100 years.
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More than 11,000 hectares of winter-spring rice crops in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang have been seriously damaged by intruding saltwater, prompting the authorities to declare a natural disaster emergency on February 23.
According to the provincial Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, saltwater has thus far crept into six out of 11 local towns and districts. It caused some 900 hectares of completely ruined rice fields, which led to a loss of almost 40 billion VND ($1.8 million).
Tran De and My Xuyen districts have taken the brunt of the intrusion, with between 400 and 450 hectares of crops totally spoiled in each locality.
More than 300,000 hectares of winter-spring rice, or about 35 percent of the delta's winter-spring rice crop, are prone to the intrusion that has crept 60-70 km inland, according to the Plant Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Prime Minister has decided to allocate 85.1 billion VND ($3.8 million), sourced from the central State budget reserve in 2015, to six localities to aid their drought and saltwater intrusion consequence overcoming efforts.
The benefited are Quang Tri (15.7 billion VND), Dak Lak (22.4 billion VND), Dak Nong (17.6 billion VND), Long An (9.3 billion VND), An Giang (10.7 billion VND), and Dong Thap (9.4 billion VND).
The localities’ 2015 summer-autumn crop had been severely affected by droughts and salty water.
At a meeting in Mekong Delta Can Tho city, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development urged ministries, sectors and localities to consider saltwater intrusion prevention as an extremely serious mission, and to drastically devise both short and long-term solutions.
The Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang is in urgent need of about 100 billion VND ($4.47 million) to cope with severe saltwater intrusion and protect crops during the dry season.
However, this amount seems out of reach for a poor province such as Hau Giang, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said.
Saltwater is forecast to intrude upstream 60–70 kilometres into the mainland this year, the department’s director Nguyen Van Dong said.
He warned that Hau Giang is only 45 kilometres away from the Rach Gia estuary (Kien Giang province) to the west and 65 kilometres away from the Tran De estuary (Soc Trang province) to the east, making it seriously vulnerable to saline intrusion.
Flood tides raised the salinity in many river sections in early February, damaging more than 1,000 hectares of winter-spring rice in the province, he added.
It is predicted that the upcoming flood tide on March 8 will make saltwater enter even deeper into local agricultural land. Around 60,000 hectares of rice and 15,000 hectares of fruit are likely to suffer during this dry season.
Across the Mekong Delta, more than 200,000 tonnes of rice has been damaged, causing losses of over 1 tri
llion VND ($44.64 million)
The 2015-2016 winter-spring rice crop has already been hit by saltwater intrusion, and 104,000 hectares have been severely affected.
The National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting said saltwater intrusion has already hit alarming levels in Ca Mau, Kien Giang, Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces.
The Mekong Delta provinces of Hau Giang and Long An are taking measures to cope with severe saltwater encroachment.
Director of the Hau Giang’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Van Dong said the province needs over VND1 trillion ($45 million) through to 2020 to enact long-term solutions to deal with the issue and protect over 82,000 hectares of rice fields.
With that amount of money, the province will focus on building dyke systems, water
reservoirs, and irrigation facilities, he said
The locality aims to complete the Vi Thanh – Long My dyke system to prevent salinity in 2016 and the second phase of a similar project from O Mon district in Can Tho city to Xa No canal in Hau Giang province.
It is also coordinating with the Mekong Delta Rice Research Institute to study growing a rice variety which is resistant to climate change and saline intrusion.
Meanwhile, Vice Chairman of Long An’s People’s Committee Nguyen Van Duoc said his locality has directed the agriculture sector to work with relevant ministries, sectors, scientific agencies and other localities to reduce salinity levels across rivers, find new resistant crops, and change to plant and animal structures that are adaptive to climate change.
Around 11,000ha of rice in the province have been damaged, with losses amounting to VND71 billion ($3.2 million).
Saltwater is likely to intrude as far as 70km in the Tien and Hau Rivers, the two main tributaries of the Mekong River in the Delta, according to the National Centre for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting.
Around 300,000 ha (over 20%) of rice fields in the winter-spring crop of 2015-2016 in the delta will be prone to drought and saltwater intrusion. ■