Mekong Delta faces historic salinity threat

By Minh Nga   March 3, 2020 | 10:48 am GMT+7
Mekong Delta faces historic salinity threat
A paddy field hit by drought in Soc Trang Province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, February 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long.

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta will suffer salt intrusion at levels that would beat the 2016 record this month, meteorologists have warned.

In the period of March 11-15, salinity will rise to eventually trump the levels of mid-February and the same period in 2016, according to the hydrological forecasting department for central Vietnam, Central Highlands and southern Vietnam under the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

Salt intrusion will keep escalating between March 6 and 10 before hitting its highest level in the middle of the month before slowly decreasing in April.

Salinity from one to four grams per liter will intrude by 50 km to as many as 130 km along all branches of Mekong River passing through the delta, Vietnam’s agri-aquaculture hub serving not just domestic demand but exports, the department said Sunday. Salinity above one gram per liter is considered unpalatable and the levels between two and 10 grams are unsafe for most crops.

Rain is still months away in Mekong Delta as southern Vietnam is only halfway into the dry season, which normally starts in late November and lasts until late April.

Meteorologists said the low seasonal tide from early March worsened the situation and raised drought and salinity levels across the entire region.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said last month up to 80,000 families in Ben Tre, Soc Trang, Kien Giang, Ca Mau, Bac Lieu and Long An provinces in the delta suffered water shortages.

2016 witnessed the most serious drought and salinity levels ever in the delta when 600,000 people did not have access to freshwater, up to 160,000 hectares of paddy fields were damaged and farmers lost up to 800,000 tons of rice, suffering losses of VND5.5 trillion ($237 million).

Experts have been blaming the El Nino phenomenon and Chinese dams for the severe conditions across Mekong Delta.

As El Nino caused little rainfall in southern Vietnam last year, Chinese dams upstream held back water supposed to not only water but fertilize the downstreams lands with sediment, it was stated.

Mekong River flows 4,880 km through six countries, 2,130 km in China. Of the 19 hydropower projects it plans along the river, China has completed 11.

Though China said earlier it would release water from its dams to save downstream countries, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam, experts said the amount would never be enough to even reach Mekong Delta because the outflow of 850 cubic meters per second is too little.

 
 
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