Mekong Delta incurs $3B annual losses due to salt intrusion

By Gia Chinh   March 16, 2024 | 06:12 am PT
Mekong Delta incurs $3B annual losses due to salt intrusion
Sluice gates at the Nguyen Tan Thanh channel in Tien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta are closed down to combat salt intrusion. Photo by VnExpress/Do Hung
The Mekong Delta region is facing a staggering economic setback, with researchers estimating annual losses exceeding VND70 trillion ($2.96 billion) due to salt intrusion.

The findings, presented by the Water Resources Science Institute under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment at a Friday conference on water resource management, were based on sophisticated mathematical models and satellite imagery analysis. These tools provided insight into the damage sustained by crops and aquaculture, translating the losses into monetary terms for the years 2020-2023.

Among the 13 Mekong Delta provinces, Ca Mau stands as the hardest-hit, with losses totaling VND16.6 trillion, followed closely by Ben Tre at VND11.8 trillion. An Giang, which has dense river network and no coastline, reports no damage attributed to salt intrusion.

The study highlighted that 29% of the damage affects the fruit sector, 27% impacts flowers, and 14% pertains to rice cultivation. Aquaculture bears the brunt of the losses, accounting for 30% of the damage, approximately VND21 trillion.

Looking ahead, the models project even steeper losses, with anticipated costs soaring to VND72.3 trillion, VND73.5 trillion, and VND76.4 trillion in 2030, 2040, and 2050, respectively.

Tran Anh Phuong, representing the institute, emphasized that the escalating damage correlates with rising sea levels, heightened socio-economic activities, and the utilization of upstream water resources. He underscored the importance of utilizing these insights to develop targeted measures, particularly in areas severely affected by salt intrusion.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reported that salt intrusion levels have surged to unprecedented heights, extending 5-15 km deeper than usual. Although two more waves of salt intrusion are expected in late March and early April, they are projected to be less severe.

Reflecting on the historic 2016 salt intrusion crisis, which contaminated 160,000 hectares of soil and incurred losses exceeding VND5.5 trillion, the government allocated VND530 billion to eight Mekong Delta provinces to address the crisis.

As the region grapples with the relentless impact of salt intrusion, effective mitigation strategies and targeted interventions are imperative to safeguarding the livelihoods of millions in the Mekong Delta.

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