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Mekong Delta's biggest irrigation system near completion

By Cuu Long   November 13, 2021 | 04:46 pm PT
Mekong Delta's biggest irrigation system near completion
Part of the Mekong Delta's largest irrigation system on the Cai Lon River, November 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long
A mega irrigation system to save southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta from drought and salinity will be fully completed in two weeks.

The system worth VND3.3 trillion ($142.17 million) comprises two parts on the Cai Lon and Cai Be rivers, both originating in Hau Giang Province and passing through Kien Giang Province before meeting the sea.

Started in November 2019, it is now 98 percent complete.

Le Hong Linh, director of the Irrigation Work Investment and Construction Management Board No. 10 under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which oversees the project construction, said it will be finished in the next two weeks as planned.

For now, constructors are adding the final touches to auxiliary items like growing plants and completing the lighting system.

"The project could have been totally completed two months ago but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the supply of specialized materials and equipment had been interrupted," he said.

The part on the Cai Be River had entered trial operation in mid-February. It spans 85 meters wide with two compartments.

The part on the Cai Lon River is bigger, stretching 455 meters in width and boasting 11 compartments. It had entered its trial run in June.

The entire irrigation system, invested by funds raised through government bonds, is expected to irrigate 384,000 hectares of land, of which 350,000 hectares are for agriculture and aquaculture, in Kien Giang, Hau Giang, Ca Mau and Bac Lieu provinces.

Both parts have locks of 15 meters in width each, aside from sewers, valves and hydraulic cylinders that make it the largest irrigation system ever in the region, which has for decades functioned as the nation’s agriculture and aquaculture hub.

The system further includes bridges and embankments that connect with national highways.

It would combine with a coastal dam in the region to combat climate change, rising sea levels and flooding, as well as help develop infrastructure for road transport.

According to Board No. 10, it normally takes 40-48 months to complete an irrigation system of such scale but due to the urgency of protecting the region from drought and salinity, which has grown worse in recent years, progress has been sped up to just 20-24 months.

During the last dry season, which normally lasts from November to April in southern Vietnam, saline levels of up to six grams per liter were found in some areas. Salinity of one to four grams was found 50 kilometers (31 miles) upstream on average, and up to 130 kilometers, in all tributaries of the Mekong. Salinity above one gram is considered unpalatable and levels of above two unsafe for most crops.

The provinces of Ben Tre, Tien Giang, Long An, Kien Giang, Ca Mau and Soc Trang had to declare an emergency after drought and saltwater damaged around 43,000 hectares (166 acres) of paddy and caused 80,000 families to suffer water shortage.

The government had given them and two other provinces VND530 billion to deal with drought and salinity.

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