Sand exploitation threatens Mekong

Policymakers and experts gathered at Can Tho City on Friday to discuss and propose an inter-provincial policy for the sustainable management of sediment in the Mekong Delta region.

Marc Goichot, an expert from the World Wildlife Fund in Viet Nam, said suspended sediment load decreased from 160 million tonnes to 75 million tonnes between 1992 and 2014.

The over-exploitation of sand is believed to be one of major factors that led to the situation, he noted.

Statistics from Viet Nam Academy for Water Resources discovered that some 28 million cubic metres sand was exploited each year in the region, twice the amount of sand flowing from the upstream of the Mekong River.

Dinh Cong San from the Viet Nam Academy for Water Resources said, “If the current rate of exploitation continues, sand in the Tien and Hau rivers is predicted to run out within 30 years.”

Many licences

About 126 companies currently have the licence to extract sand in the region, he said.

Goichot suggested that authorised agencies in the region should find a solution to maintain a balance between sand exploitation for the development of the region’s economy and the management of sediment sources for the sustenance of the river’s ecology.

Dao Trong Tu, advisor to Viet Nam River Network, said sediments play a major role in nurturing agriculture, aquaculture, and biodiversity.

Thus, Tu suggested, agencies should conduct an overall assessment of the role of the Mekong River’s sediment in the socio-economic development of the Mekong Delta.

The study result can be used to build a strategy for the sustainable management of the Mekong River’s sediment, he added.

Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF Viet Nam Country Director, stressed the need for closer cooperation among 13 localities in the region to tackle the problem.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Bui Cach Tuyen called upon relevant agencies to promote awareness campaigns on the significance of the sustainable management of sediment sources in the delta, in combination with preserving submerged areas and developing ecological services.

According to experts, the decline in sediment quantity and quality has resulted in the loss of 500 hectares of land and an additional 30-40 metres of coast every year. As many as 265 erosion sites are visible along 450km of the river. 

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