Inefficient use of water a problem for Vietnam in drought fight

By Vuong Duc Anh   April 19, 2016 | 05:14 pm PT
Inefficient use of water a problem for Vietnam in drought fight
Drought and salinity are causing severe affects in many provinces in the South of Vietnam. : VNA
Waste of water is a pressing issue for Vietnam as the country battles to combat climate change and avoid over-reliance on outside sources, according to a water resources expert.

Chairman of the Vietnam Academy for Water Resources Vu Trong Hong said the absence of a strategic agenda on how water should be used is the major issue for Vietnam in the fight against historic drought and saline intrusion, according to Vietnam News Agency. 

The severe disaster is threatening the livelihoods, food security and water resources of nearly 1.8 million people, 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.

Despite of the situation, in an interview with Vietnam News Agency, Hong said Vietnam is able to make use of merely 1.5 million cubic meters out of its 300 billion cubic meters of domestic water resources for agriculture.

One of the reasons, Hong said, is due to the lack of canals and waterway development. Out of 10 billion cubic meters that the irrigation reservoirs in Vietnam can contain each year, only 1.5 million cubic meters was used to serve four million hectares of agricultural land. Vietnam’s agriculture sector, therefore, depends heavily on rainfall and the weather, Hong said.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said the country needs to invest dozens of trillion of VND to upgrade its irrigation system. According to Hong, this shows Vietnam is lagging behind in terms of establishing an irrigation system that can meet production demand.

Another reason, he said, is due to that Vietnam has yet developed a strategic agenda for the utilization of water resources and the existing Law on Water Resources does not stipulate how water should be used.

Regarding the specific tasks ahead for the Mekong Delta region, Hong said that saltwater intrusion must be stopped, and if the water intake in downstream areas is not adequate, irrigation networks should be moved upstream. There is also a need to review nationwide irrigation infrastructure, and it must be further developed if it is found lacking.

Hong also said a leader should be appointed to implement a unified plan to coordinate drought and salinity relief efforts instead of letting locals and farmers manage water resources themselves.

Vietnam receives about 800 billion cubic meters of water annually. This includes 500 billion cubic meters from abroad, via the Mekong River and China, while 300 billion come from domestic sources.

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