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Mekong Delta mangrove forests declining at alarming rate

The coastal mangrove forests in the Mekong River Delta, which protect the local ecosystem and local residents, is declining at a rapid rate because of the proliferation of shrimp ponds.

A report from the forest development department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development shows that Vietnam has 166,000 hectares of mangrove forests,  60 per cent less than in the 1940s.

Nhu Van Ky, a senior official of the department, said the coastal mangrove protective forests were being decimated because of the shrimp hatchery movement. More and more shrimp ponds have been built in the provinces of Tra Vinh, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau, while large areas of forests in the localities have been cleared.

Ky said the forests have also been cut down to make room for agricultural production, embankments, industrial zones and seaports.

The state has been operating many afforestation programs in an effort to protect and develop forests. However, the programs have brought unsatisfactory results: only 50 per cent of plants can grow into forests.

It is very difficult to plant forests in coastal areas, and the state’s investment rate to develop protective forests has been modest.

Tran Thanh Cao from the Northern Region Forestry Science Institute has warned that large areas of forests are being affected by climate change and rising sea water levels..

“The sea has been encroaching on the mainland. Meanwhile, more hydropower plants have been built on the upper course of the Mekong River Delta. Production workshops have been discharging wastewater, thus polluting the environment and harming the ecosystem. All of these have had big negative impacts on mangrove forests,” he said.

According to Pham Huy Thong, director of the National Agriculture Expansion Encouragement Center, strategies to develop forests and adapt to climate change have been drawn up.

Vietnam needs to develop 330,000 hectares of mangrove coastal protective forests by 2015 and 500,000 hectares by 2025.

Tran Van Thuc, deputy director of the Ca Mau provincial Agriculture Department, said hundreds of kilometres of coastlines and river banks in Ca Mau are suffering from serious soil erosion, posing a major threat to the life of local people.

There is a total coastline of 252km along with some 10,000 rivers and channels in the province.

He said that local authorities are considering building a centrifugal concrete embankment system in the area belonging to U Minh district in order to create alluvial ground for forest regeneration.

Trinh Hoang Viet from the Long An provincial Center for Agriculture Expansion Encouragement said the center has advised farmers to apply agriculture-forestry production models that would help to protect mangrove forests and maintain production.

Farmers have been advised to raise bees under the forest canopy, or develop rice fields and plant cajuput trees at the same time they breed fowl.

Meanwhile, the center has been working to select plant varieties suited to different types of soil. It has also been encouraging farmers to set up seedling incubators, and has been providing seedlings to people to grow on a small scale.

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