Historic drought forces Vietnam to eye Israel water-saving tips

By Bui Hong Nhung   April 20, 2016 | 05:15 pm PT
Historic drought forces Vietnam to eye Israel water-saving tips
Drought in Mekong Delta, March 30, 2016. Photo: Kham/Reuters
The country should consider the measures taken by Israel and Middle East countries to efficiently allocate limited water resources as we address climate change, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat at a meeting on April 19.

For months severe drought and salinity has threatened the livelihoods, food security and water resources of nearly 1.8 million people in the country, including 455,000 children. Thousands of hectares of cultivation land have been damaged, and many households are facing water shortages, along with other risks related to health, nutrition and hygiene.

Minister Phat suggested Vietnam should focus on forecasting possible natural disasters, given the country's lack of resources in its fight against climate change.

“We should know 15 days in advance how far saltwater will encroach onto our land and which provinces will be affected so we can warn our citizens,” he said.

The minister added climate change will affect the whole country, but the extent will vary from province to province. The agricultural sector, especially poor farmers with outdated watering methods, will be at the biggest disadvantage during natural disasters.

Phat said Vietnam should consider water-saving methods used in Israel and Middle East countries, where the average annual rainfall is only 50 millimeters. "We urgently need a water-saving policy along with the application of modern technological advances in agriculture," he added.

At present, the country needs to upgrade irrigation systems in the Mekong Delta region and the Central Highlands. An expert in the area of water resources estimated Vietnam is able to make use of a mere 1.5 million cubic meters out of its 300 billion cubic meters of domestic water resources each year for agriculture.

“Some districts in the Central Highlands are running out of water as we speak. There are no streams, no rivers, no reservoirs. Local people are enduring pain of watching their coffee and pepper plantations slowly die,” Phat said.

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