Mekong Delta land erosion set to worsen, residents warned

By Dang Khoa   June 19, 2018 | 02:26 am PT
Mekong Delta land erosion set to worsen, residents warned
Screen shot of the map of erosion spots in Vietnam's Mekong Delta by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Upstream projects on the Mekong River have made a bad problem much worse, experts say.

The land erosion problem in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta has assumed drastic proportions, officials warned the region’s residents at a meeting held on Monday.

Organized by the General Department of Disaster Prevention under the Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, the meeting spelt out the extent of the problem in detail.

The ministry said there were 562 erosion locations with total length of 786 kilometers. This included 55 “critically dangerous” locations that are 173 kilometers long, 140 “dangerous” locations 97 kilometers long, and 367 “normal” erosion spots 516 kilometers long.

Deputy agriculture minister Hoang Van Thang told the meeting that land erosion was exacerbated due to climate change impacts, infrastructure development and population growth.

However, Tang Quoc Chinh, general director of the disaster management department, noted that erosion had actually worsened exponentially since 2010, after China completed several hydroelectricity projects. Erosion did occur before then, but the situation was not as drastic as now, he said.

Chinh added that the large number of upstream reservoirs were negatively impacting the river banks and the coast in the delta. China had already completed six major dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

Stressing the damage being caused by upstream projects to the Mekong Delta, Chinh said that usually, the region received 73 million cubic meters of alluvium each year, but only got 42 cubic meters in 2012. When all the 19 reservoirs planned are completed, Vietnam will only receive 10-15 cubic meters of alluvium, badly affecting the Mekong Delta’s fertility.

He also echoed the deputy minister Thang’s observation about population growth exerting pressure on the development of infrastructure and houses near the delta’s coastal areas.

Online map

As part of efforts to tackle the problem, the ministry recently launched an online map to track land erosion so that timely measures, both short and long term, can be taken.

The map will include satellite images, field images, videos and erosion point information including length and depth, as well as impacts on humans and the environment. The map is expected to help local authorities warn citizens sooner, and help promote prevention efforts.

In recent years, land erosion has taken a heavy toll on cities and provinces like Can Tho, Tien Giang, Ca Mau and An Giang.

Last month, five houses along a river in Can Tho were washed away while another 14 collapsed partially.

According to the agriculture ministry, the Mekong Delta, the country's fruit and rice basket, is losing 500 hectares of land to the sea and rivers each year.

It is estimated that by 2050, the lives of one million people in the delta will be directly affected by this phenomenon.

The Ministry of Construction submitted to the central government a proposal last year to build concrete barriers and protect 44,800 families in the region from erosion on its riverbanks.

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