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Salinization threatens Vietnam’s Mekong Delta

Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 10:38 GMT+7

Saltwater has intruded into a large section of a major river in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, threatening the livelihoods of local residents.

Saline water has spread to some 20 kilometers of the Tien (Front) River, with locals now bracing themselves for an extended drought and further salinization.

The Mekong River splits into two at Phnom Penh to form the Tien River, the main northern branch, and the Hau River, the primary southern distributor, after entering Vietnam.

The two rivers remain the primary source of fresh water for both agriculture and daily consumption by residents of the Mekong Delta.

A delegation from the Water Resource Department in Tien Giang Province, which is heavily affected by saltwater intrusion, has recorded a high salt content along the Tien River since November 13.

The salinity level in the affected section was between 1.77 and six grams per liter of water, which is above the average amount in previous years, said Nguyen Thien Phap, head of the provincial water resource department.

Tran Hoang Ba, director of the Tien Giang Irrigation Works Operating Company, expressed his concern over the potential severity of this year’s salinization, with the signs appearing some 15 days earlier than last year.

Local authorities have already commenced the dredging of several canals in the province to preserve fresh water for the coming dry season.

The construction of four steel dams has also been expedited, which are designed to prevent the effects of high tide and salinization.

The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has encouraged farmers to adjust their crop rotation to suit the expected conditions. 

Several neighboring provinces, namely Long An and Ben Tre, have also been affected with a minimum salinity level of about one gram per liter of water.

Farmers in Dong Thap Province, which has never been impacted by the intrusion of saltwater, have been urged to begin growing crops now for an early harvest.

Efforts to preserve fresh water

A campaign has kicked off in Ben Tre Province to raise local residents’ awareness of climate change and the necessity to preserve water resources during the oncoming dry season.

Residents are encouraged to minimize their water consumption and save as much as they can.

According to Cao Van Trong, chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, investment is being sought for the construction of two vital water supply projects, which are expected to alleviate the impacts of drought and salinization in the area.

In Tien Giang, the local water company has been urged to connect its stations with residential areas to ensure supply.

A temporary dam is ready to be built once the saltwater intrudes on the water company’s reservoir.

Authorities have signed up for a medium-term loan from the government to construct two more major reservoirs for farming and daily use.

The agriculture department in Long An has ordered the dredging of over 10 irrigation works to prepare, while six other dams have been set up to prevent saline water from entering.

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