Giant fresh water bags offer reprieve in Mekong Delta salinity battle

By Hoang Nam   December 18, 2019 | 05:32 am PT
Giant fresh water bags offer reprieve in Mekong Delta salinity battle
The storage bags are capable of holding 30 cubic meters of freshwater. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam.
Facing increasing saltwater intrusion, Mekong Delta farmers test-run storage bags capable of holding 30 cubic meters of freshwater.

Each bag consists of multilayered tarpaulin, plus two valves that regulate storage capacity. Designed by a HCMC company, one bag measures between 2-3 meters wide and 6-13 meters long. Prices range from VND1.7-2.6 million ($73 – 112) a bag.

It is the first time this unusual water storage device has been introduced to communes across Cho Lach District, southern Ben Tre Province.

"We grow 500 yellow Mai flower (Ochna integerrima) trees to sell during Tet (Lunar New Year). The water has been saline recently, and we have no means to store fresh water. Buying water is costly, so I opted for this long-term bag instead," said Nguyen Van Chinh, 41. Tet falls in January.

Nguyen Thanh Son, chairman of Phu Son Commune People's Committee, said: "The advantage of this bag is its ability to control evaporation. It could be placed anywhere, rolled up and stored for use next season," Chairman Son noted.

Ben Tre Province has struggled to cope with saline intrusion, levels surging to 8 parts per thousand (ppt), twice that of the 2016 drought season. Though water is stored locally, farmers could still face a shortage of irrigation water.

Two men from Phu Son commune sitting atop the water-filled bag. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Phu Son farmers astride a water-filled bag. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam.

Near 600,000 households in Ben Tre and several other Mekong Delta provinces suffer a lack of freshwater. Besides, 160,000 hectares of land has been contaminated by saltwater, causing losses valued at VND5.5 trillion ($237 million).

Bui Thanh Liem, head of agriculture bureau of Cho Lach District, said saline levels in rivers and canals are decreasing, offering people the chance to proactively store fresh water.

According to Hydrometeorology Station of Ben Tre Province, salinity levels have decreased, but may increase again during the next three or four days thanks to northeast winds.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in September warned drought and saltwater intrusion would affect 13 provinces in the delta several months earlier in 2020.

It said seawater could intrude 35-110 kms inland, slightly deeper than in 2016, and affect 100,000 hectares of land under winter-spring rice. Some 50,000 households would face the risk of water shortage with Long An, Tien Giang and Ben Tre provinces expected to be worst hit, the ministry added.

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