Erosion eats up Mekong Delta houses

By Ngoc Tai   May 24, 2023 | 11:48 pm PT
Erosion eats up Mekong Delta houses
Houses collapse into a river in An Giang Province's Chau Phu District, May 24, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Huy Khanh
An Giang and Dong Thap provinces in the Mekong Delta have recorded five serious cases of river erosion in a week, causing locals and businesses to instantly lose properties.

On Wednesday morning, four houses in An Giang’s Chau Phu District collapsed into the Xep Ka Tam Pong River in less than a minute.

The eroded area stretched 35 m long and 2 m wide, causing the collapse of four houses used for accommodation and business purposes, resulting in total losses estimated at VND500 million (US$21,500).

Previously on May 21 and 23, erosions occurred at two other places in the province's Cho Moi District.

One took place along the Hau River, one of the two tributaries of the Mekong in Vietnam, eating up an area 70 m long and 10 m wide, while damaging part of a food processing facility. The other was along a canal, causing three families to immediately evacuate.

Last week, Dong Thap Province reported two erosions in Cao Lanh District that caused six houses to collapse in the Can Lo River.

Erosion damages two houses in Cao Lanh District of Dong Thap Province, May 21, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Son

Two houses damaged due to erosion in Cao Lanh District of Dong Thap Province, May 21, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Son

Southern Vietnam has just entered the rainy season and experts are worried that more serious erosions will occur soon.

Since 1992, the Mekong Delta region has lost some 300-600 hectares of riverine land each year to erosion.

One of the reasons is excessive sand mining.

Others include industrial agriculture and aquaculture leading to the destruction of vast areas of mangroves and the impacts of climate change, according to experts.

In the last 10 years, Vietnam has spent $694 million on anti-erosion projects in the Mekong Delta, allocating $174 million in 2018 and 2019 alone.The delta now has 564 riverine and coastal erosion hubs measuring a total of 834 km.

Houses collapse into the Can Lo River in Dong Thap Province, May 12, 2023. Video by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai, My An

Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent researcher on Mekong Delta’s ecology, said erosion was one of the biggest challenges for the delta, Vietnam’s agriculture hub.

He said the latest data showed that the entire region now had 891 km of river bank and coast that had been eroded due to a lack of fine silt and sand.

Around 15 years ago, the Mekong, Southeast Asia's longest river, carried some 143 million tons of sediment, through to the Mekong Delta every year, but by 2020 only about one-third of the river-borne soils would reach Vietnamese floodplains.

At the current rate of decline, less than 5 million tons of sediment will be reaching the delta each year by 2040, according to a Reuters article published last year citing analysis of satellite data conducted by a Germany-based aquatic remote sensing company.

The Mekong River Commission estimated in 2018 that total sediment flow by 2022 would be around 47 million tons per year.

Scientists and environmentalists working in Vietnam and abroad have often warned of the impact of upstream dam projects.

They said the lack of sediment would be much more serious in the future when all 11 dams built by China on the Mekong upstream were up and running.

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