Delta faces water shortage, salination

The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta faces a possible shortage of freshwater for next year’s rice crops due to drought and a worsening of saltwater intrusion in the coming dry season, according to the Southern Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

Its prediction is based on higher temperatures this year accompanied by below-average rainfall and declining water levels in major rivers.

The rainfall between December and April 2015 would be much below average while the temperature would be 0.5-1 degree Celsius higher than normal, the centre also forecast.

Speaking at a recent seminar in Dong Thap Province, Tran Dinh Phong, deputy head of the centre’s Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Management Division, said floods in the delta were low this year and the water levels in major rivers were significantly reduced compared to previous years.

Seawater is likely to encroach 40-50km inland from rivermouths, or twice this year’s levels, he warned further.

Doan Tan Trieu, deputy director of the Tra Vinh Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said, “This year, the province’s observation stations have recorded saltwater intrusion since mid-November.”

Luong Quang Xo, deputy head of the Southern Irrigation Planning Institute, said delta provinces, especially those along the coast like Bac Lieu, Soc Trang, Ca Mau, Ben Tre, and Tien Giang, should dredge their canals and store freshwater for the winter-spring and summer-autumn rice crops.

Tang Duc Thang, deputy director of the Southern Irrigation Science Research Institute, said the delta provinces had become experienced at coping with drought and salinity over the years, but the most important thing is funding.

The Government should provide financial support to employ the measures required to cope with the drought and salinity intrusion, he said.

Trieu said one of the things Tra Vinh must do was plant the rice crop earlier than usual.

“In early December we will begin storing freshwater to ensure irrigation for agriculture.”

In the 2010-11 winter-spring rice crop, Tra Vinh lost around 10,000ha of rice because of a water shortage.

In Kien Giang Province, authorities have been closing sluice gates along the coast to keep out saltwater since October, according to the local Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

They has also built 52 temporary dams and upgraded some existing ones to ensure there is water for irrigation.

Some of the coastal provinces like Soc Trang, Ca Mau, Tien Giang, and Ben Tre are also worried about a possible shortage of freshwater for domestic use.

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