UN vows to assist Vietnam tackle drought, salinity

The UN Deputy Secretary General has offered assistance to Vietnam in coping with the ongoing drought and saline intrusion, which has affected two million people in the southern and south-central region.

Jan Eliasson, who recently completed a fact-finding trip to Mekong Delta’s BếnTre Province, told local media during a press briefing that the UN would allocate a budget of US$48.5 million to support Vietnam.

The UN and partners have called on the international community to offer emergency assistance to Vietnam in fighting drought.

The UN official said he offers support to the efforts now being undertaken by the UN Secretary General to assist Vietnam in adapting to climate change.

Visiting Bến Tre, Eliasson said that, during his fact-finding trip, he could clearly see the impact of drought and saline intrusion.

Many farms have been seriously damaged by the drought and saline intrusion. 

Eliasson has asked UN officials in Vietnam to monitor the case of a family in Bến Tre, whose 0.5 hectares of farmland face a total loss due to the historic drought.

After meeting with local residents affected by the disaster, Eliasson vowed to seek solutions to help affected farmers.

In anticipation of the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit and climate change in Turkey this month, Eliasson said he will mention the challenge that Vietnam is confronting and the case of the Bến Tre family.

Drought this year has seriously affected other countries, Eliasson said, adding that “Vietnam is not alone…”

Fresh water shortage has also become serious, not only in Vietnam but in the world community, he added.  

The UN also plans to work with Vietnamese scientists to develop solutions that would alleviate the fresh water shortage.

Rising sea levels are other serious concerns in Vietnam.  

Eliasson urged close cooperation in water use between riparian countries along the Mekong River.

He said that water demand from countries located near the upstream and downstream of the river was high, especially for agriculture. But he noted that countries need water for electricity as well.

Drought and saline intrusion has caused the Mekong Delta to lose one million tonnes of rice and more than 9,000ha of fruit orchards, while more than 200,000 households lack sufficient water.

Eliasson suggested that Vietnam work with countries to devise a joint action plan that takes climate change into account.

Mass fish deaths

Concerning the mass fish deaths in the central region of Vietnam, Eliasson said that the UN would assist in finding the cause of the incident if the Vietnamese government asked for help. 

He said it was a serious issue that needed to be addressed, and urged the local government to promptly determine the cause of the incident.

He also said the government should stop industrial production that causes negative impact to the environment and curb other activities that disrupt natural processes.

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