Hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice fields in coastal areas in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam have been badly affected by the deep intrusion of sea water into rivers and canals due to the current drought.
Provinces in the lower part of the Hau River, one of the two largest rivers in the delta, known as Vietnam’s rice granary for decades, have faced the worst effects of the drought and as a result the salinity in local water.
In Soc Trang Province, the salinity measured at the Dai Ngai Station in January this year was 0.8 percent and is now 0.65 percent. At this time last year, it was only 0.4 percent.
It is forecast that the degree of salinity will reach 1.2 percent next month.
So, at least 6,000 hectares of rice for the spring-summer crop in the districts of Long Phu and Tran De will be affected.
Soc Trang authorities are working on measures to protect 18,000 other hectares of rice in Nga Nam, My Tu, and Thanh Tri Districts.
In Hau Giang Province, the salinity in river water is increasing. In the provincial capital of Vi Thanh, the salinity was 1.25 percent and has been increasing by 0.05-0.1 percentage points per day and traveling 2-3km deeper into rice fields a day.
It is forecast that all of Vi Thanh will be affected by the salinity next month.
Lai Thanh An, head of the Irrigational Works Department in Bac Lieu Province, said his agency has spent VND2 billion (US$93,000) pumping fresh water for irrigation in local districts.
Bac Lieu has 46,000 hectares of rice for the winter-spring crop, 13,000 hectares of which have been harvested.
In Kien Giang Province, salinity has penetrated 30-35km from the mouths of the Cai Be and Cai Lon Rivers. The Rach Gia-Long Xuyen Canal has seen salt water 5.5km from its mouth.
Nguyen Duc Hien, director of the Kien Giang water supply company, said his reservoirs hold enough water to maintain usage until the middle of next month. That means the supply of fresh water for family use may be affected if there is no rain before then.
Trinh Xuan Hung, director of the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting of Ca Mau Province, announced that the salinity degree of water in major rivers in the province is higher than last year’s.
Ca Mau has had no rain for months and the drought is forecast to be more severe than in previous years, Hung added.
Drought has also affected families in the buffer zone of forests in Ca Mau. Five hundred out of 2,000 households in Bien Bach Commune of Thoi Binh District are short of water for daily use.