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​Heat waves cause misery to farmers in central Vietnam

By Duc Hung, Nguyen Hai   June 26, 2020 | 09:01 pm PT
Prolonged hot weather has caused a severe shortage of water for irrigation in the central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh.
A cracked rice field in Nghi Loc District of Nghe An Province, June 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Hai

A cracked rice field in Nghi Loc District of Nghe An Province, June 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Hai.

These days, Nguyen Duy Dong, a rice farmer in Nghi Loc District in Nghe An, has to wake up very early in the morning twice a week, carry two pumps to an irrigation canal and draw water into his 2,500-square-meter field.

One heat wave after another in the central region has caused a severe shortage of water, and his field, where rice was planted one month ago, is among those badly affected.

"If I keep doing this, I can save the field but cannot make up the cost of fuel," he says to explain why he pumps water only twice a week.

Usually, he lets the pumps run for three hours, which costs him around VND100,000 ($4.3).

"If the rains do not come in the next 10 days the canal will run dry and our field could wither."

Many other farmers in Nghi Loc too have been suffering and there are fields with cracks as wide as a human foot. Some of them look like desert scapes from afar.

Nguyen Kim Thuy, a senior official at the Nghe An Department of Irrigation, said over the past month farmers in the province had cultivated rice on a total of more than 61,000 hectares (almost 151,000 acres).

Around 3,500 ha of the crop face a crippling water shortage while another 10,000 ha have been affected to varying degrees. More than 500 ha of other crops are also parched.

The heat waves have been raging for more than a month, and the 97 major lakes and reservoirs in the province are only filled to 40-70 percent of their capacity. Hundreds of smaller lakes and dams are only 20-50 percent full.

Nguyen Dinh Sen stands by an orange tree with burned leaves due to the scorching sun in his farm in Huong Khe District of Ha Tinh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Nguyen Dinh Sen stands by an orange tree withered by the scorching sun and lack of water in his farm in Huong Khe District, Ha Tinh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.

In Ha Tinh Province next door, farmers in Huong Khe District have seen tens of hectares of orange trees wither or become stunted due to the heat and water shortage.

Nguyen Dinh Sen, 60, of the district’s Phuc Trach Commune, said 2,000 pomelo and orange trees in his farm have withered.

He has spent over $1,000 to install a pipe system to water his farm but it has not helped given the current weather, he said. Some 30 percent of his crop was dying, he said.

"I’ve done everything I can to save my farm but my hands are tied now. I can only wish for the rains to come soon. In my decades of farming this could be the year I suffer the heaviest losses... maybe of around VND100 million ($4,300)."

Thousands of hectares of other crops in Huong Khe also face destruction.

Standing by her corn farm in Huong Thuy Commune that has almost withered, Ngo Thi Tam, 52, said her two hectares of crop was supposed to be harvested in less than two months, but the heat waves have changed everything.

"Because it is too hot, the corn could not absorb the nitrogen from the fertilizer. As a result, they could not grow fully. Even if the rain comes now, I will lose 30 percent of the crop."

Le Quang Vinh, head of the Huong Khe Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the district has 1,000 ha of orange and pomelo, 200 ha of rice and 1,500 ha of corn and other crops, and all are in dire need of water.

If the heat waves continue, most of them would perish, he said.

In the north-central region, where the two provinces are situated, the average temperature has remained at 37-40 degrees Celsius, and up to 41 degrees in some places, for a month now.

The heat is forecast to last until early next month.

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