Floods hit Mekong Delta farmers after Laos dam bursts

By Cuu Long, Hoang Nam   July 31, 2018 | 11:25 pm PT
Floods hit Mekong Delta farmers after Laos dam bursts
A corn field in Dong Thap Province is flooded. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long
Thousands of hectares of crops have been damaged in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta as flooding has come earlier than expected.

In An Giang Province’s Vinh Hoi Dong Commune, farmer Nguyen Van Dieu looked at his inundated 4,000-square-meter field and said: "It seems like we have lost everything since the water level is continuing to rise rapidly.”

Dieu and his wife tried everything they could to keep out the waters but in vain.

He is just one of thousands of affected farmers in An Giang.

The Mekong Delta flood usually lasts between August and November and is part of the monsoon season that the locals are accustomed to. But not this time.

Water from the Laos hydroelectric power dam collapse on July 23 combined with high tides has caught the farmers unprepared.

The rushing waters from the partially constructed hydropower dam in Attapeu Province have so far killed 27 and left 131 missing besides stranding more than 3,000 people.

In Dong Thap Province, 700 kilometers (440 miles) south of the dam collapse, people living around the Tien River said flooding season came early this year and did not leave much room and time for them to fully prepare.

Le Thi Muoi, 42, said farmers did not have time to harvest their crops.

“No one would buy our damaged cassava,” she said.

In Long An Province, farmers in Thanh Hung Commune are trying to cover up the paddy field and save more than 1,000 hectares of rice.

“Due to uncompleted flood defense, production rate has dropped by 30 percent as water was rising five to seven centimeters daily,” Vo Hung Kiet, a commune official said.

“Distributors pre-ordered at a great price before the flood hit,” a local farmer, Nguyen Van Dong said. “But since we had to harvest when the rice was yet fully grown, price has dropped VND1,000 per kilogram.”

Farmers harvest crops ahead of the flood. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Farmers harvest crops ahead of the flood. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Locals also shared that they would not benefit much from the harvest due to the cost for flood defenses. For instance, using water pumps to save crops would add VND1 million ($42) per hectare.

According to the Central Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Control, flood levels in the Mekong Delta are rising, especially in An Giang Province.

On July 29, the Center for Hydro - Meteorological Forecasting recorded the water level on the Tien River and Hau River at 2.87 meters and 2.38 meters respectively, but that numbers rose to 2.97 meters and 2.47 meters the next day.

Director of the Southern Irrigation Department Tran Ba Hoang explained that the Laos dam collapse has pushed more water to dams in Cambodia. As a result, these dams discharged water (combined with rain level) and caused water in the Mekong Delta to rise.

Le Khuong Binh, director of the Hydro-meteorological Station of Dong Thap, said that the floodwaters in the Mekong Delta had risen rapidly, about seven to ten centimeters per day.

It is forecast that in the next two weeks, flood could reach it peak point at 3.5 meters on Tien River, and three meters on Hau River, the two tributaries of the Mekong in Vietnam.

“People need to harvest their crops early to reduce damage," Binh said.

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