Drought, salinization forecast to worsen in Vietnam

An official from a national meteorological center has warned that drought and salinization currently devastating parts of Vietnam could become more severe in the near future

A drought-hit paddy field is seen in Kien Giang Province, located in Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

A regular press meeting of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was organized on Thursday afternoon to provide forecasts about how extreme climatic conditions that have been affecting several regions in the Southeast Asian country would get in the time to come.

Addressing the matter at the conference, Le Thanh Hai, deputy general director of the National Hydro-Meteorological Service, under the management of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that this year’s drought and salinization are record breaking against the past century.

Prediction for the conditions was first made in August 2015, when experts expected that the severe El Nino phenomenon could last until 2016, according to Hai.

This year’s drought and salinization crisis, especially in the Central Highlands and south-central coast, was signaled by last year’s rainy season, evidenced by a decline in total rainfall, the official continued.

He stated that the country’s rainfall dropped in 2014, 30 percent lower than that of the previous year, and worsened in 2015, with the absence of rain and flood throughout the rainy season.

The situation is exacerbated by the influence of the El Nino phenomenon, which has been more destructive than it was during the 1997-98 period.

In addition, last year’s flood in the Mekong Delta was recorded at the lowest level since 1926, according to Hai.

Answering local media’s questions about the outlook of the climatic events, the official said that this year’s rainy season will arrive later than usual, thus drought and salinization are expected to get more serious in the coming time and to potentially hit the north-central coastal region.

Meanwhile, the damage caused by the alarming intrusion of salt water into vast areas of agricultural land in the Mekong Delta is indescribable, Hai added.

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Le Thanh Hai, deputy general director of the National Hydro-Meteorological Service, is seen in this photo. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The National Hydro-Meteorological Service has been cooperating with competent agencies to regularly monitor drought and salinization in the country, providing weekly updates on its website in order for localities to promptly cope with any new developments.

The Vietnam National Mekong Committee has been conducting analysis and evaluation to identify the exact cause of the current conditions, Tran Duc Cuong, deputy head of the committee’s office, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

One of the basic reasons pinpointed by the research is a drastic rise in water flow from the upper Mekong River to the delta in Vietnam, Cuong explained.

Vietnamese authorities already worked with nations in the upper river through diplomatic channels, requesting China to release water from its dam to downstream areas.

As a result, China said it would discharge water from Jinghong Hydropower Station for emergency use from March 15 to April 10, which is thought to alleviate drought in the Mekong Delta, Cuong elaborated.

He added that salinization, however, depends hugely on the tidal peak, posing more difficulties for prediction and control efforts.

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