Mekong Delta receives water from China and Laos amid severe drought

By Cuu Long, Phuc Hung, Vuong Anh   April 3, 2016 | 12:38 pm GMT+7

Fresh water released from reservoirs in China and Laos has reached the Mekong Delta bringing much-needed relief to local provinces that are combating severe drought and saline intrusion.

A number of western provinces in the South have started to enjoy the benefits of the water discharged from China and Laos, enabling local farmers to start the cropping for new rice season.

Water levels in Dong Thap and An Giang have risen and farmers have started sowing the summer-autumn rice crop.

“My 15 hectares of rice is two weeks old, I was worried because there was not much water in the canal. But in the last three days, the water had risen to more than 30cm. Farmers are very happy here. If the water level remains like this for more than a month, once the rains come, we won’t have to worry about water shortages anymore,” farmer Le Van Lam from Dong Thap said.

mekong-delta-receives-water-from-china-and-laos-amid-severe-drought

Since March 27, water inflow in Hau river has started to increase. Photo: A.X

In An Giang, people are preparing to sow 18,000 hectares of summer-autumn rice. Local authorities have instructed people to dredge their irrigation channels and save fresh water for daily life and production.

According to Luu Van Ninh, director of Radio Hydrometeorology in An Giang, the flow of water from upstream at present will satisfy the irrigation needs of the Long Xuyen quadrangle in the Mekong Delta. Salinity in An Giang and the surrounding areas of Kien Giang province has been pushed back, Ninh added.

"With the incoming flood tide and China’s stable discharge of water from its dams, the current water flow will increase until the end of April 6,” Ninh forecast.

The water levels in the rivers in Can Tho province have increased in the past few days. Salinity has fallen sharply, ranging between 0.09 to 0.19 percent (compared to 1.5-2.5 percent in March).

In Soc Trang, the salinity level measured from the Hau River, the major river flowing through the province, has falled to 0.6 percent in comparison to 8.5 to 24.5 percent in March, according to Huynh Ngoc Van, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Ha Tan Viet, head of the Department of Soc Trang Irrigation, said authorities have ordered all irrigation systems to open in anticipation of the fresh water from China, and informed locals of the situation.

"The fresh water has prevented stemmed the damaged area to less than 30 percent in some wards, saving about 2,000 hectares of rice that are in the flowering stage," Viet said.

In Ben Tre province at the end of the river, where drought and salinity has hit hardest, people are still waiting for fresh water to arrive. Nguyen Thanh Liem , head of the Agriculture Department in Ben Tre, said they expect the water to reach the province in the next 2 days.

The Southern Institute of Water Resources Research has announced an emergency status on saline intrusion and its intake on water in the Mekong Delta. According to the institute, coastal provinces, located within 25-40 km from the sea will receive fresh water in April.

The institute said locals should focus on storing fresh water by opening culverts to make it easier for the water to flow in.

Nine of the 12 western provinces have announced a disaster situation, and hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables and aquatic farming areas have been affected. More than a million people are suffering from freshwater shortages, and in many places, people are having to buy river water and well water at unreasonably high prices.

China said it will release water from its reservoir in Yunnan province from mid-March until April 10 to save Southeast Asian countries from prolonged drought. Laos had also decided to drain a reservoir by the end of May in order to increase the flow of water in the Mekong River, helping Vietnam to solve the severe drought and saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta.

 
Tags: Mekong drought