No scientific evidence Mekong Delta will go under: PM

By Hoang Thuy, Viet Tuan   November 8, 2019 | 10:17 pm PT
No scientific evidence Mekong Delta will go under: PM
A boy sits at his house that has partly collapsed into the river due to erosion in Soc Trang Province, Vietnam's Mekong Delta, July 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said "there is no scientific basis" to the recent prediction that the Mekong Delta will be submerged in 30-50 years.

The PM said Friday that a paper warning the Mekong Delta could be submerged underwater by 2050 lacks scientific backing.

While admitting that climate change has been having negative impacts on the region, Phuc said "there is no scientific evidence to conclude that the Mekong Delta and several other places in southern Vietnam will be under water in 30-50 years."

"That information is just a study that has not been appraised yet and no state agency has come to such a conclusion," he told a National Assembly (NA) meeting in Hanoi.

Phuc was referring to a paper released last month by Climate Central, a U.S.-based a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science. The paper said the entire southern part of Vietnam, including the Mekong Delta and the nation's economic hub, HCMC, could be underwater by 2050.

The study, published in Nature Communications, said sea levels projected by that year are high enough to consign an area currently home to a total of some 150 million people permanently below the high tide line, which means rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought.

Taking the Netherlands as example for his argument, Phuc said that country lies 1.5 meters below sea level, but has still developed well thanks to effective response measures.

He said Vietnam should learn from their experiences and "turn the risks posed by climate change and saltwater intrusion into opportunities."  

The PM also said Vietnam has worked with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on limiting operations of hydropower projects that have mushroomed upstream the Mekong River, an activity blamed for many problems that the region suffers from, including salt water intrusion and land erosion.

The dams have cut the sediment that naturally flows to the Mekong Delta, leading to saltwater intrusion and erosion in the region.

The proposal has been endorsed by many countries, he said.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at a National Assembly session on November 11, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thang

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at a National Assembly session in Hanoi, November 8, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thang.

The PM went on to say that the government has sent several delegations to the Mekong Delta’s Can Tho City on field trips and organized several conferences on the state of the delta.

Noting that the government had issued a resolution in 2017 on climate resilience and sustainable development of the delta, Phuc said that the government will soon review its implementation to assess shortcomings and come up with solutions to overcome them.

Back in June, he had said at a meeting reviewing two years of implementing the resolution that lack of funds was a major hurdle to building infrastructure and undertaking climate change adaptation projects.

For now, the government has planned to allocate VND16.7 trillion ($720 million) for projects to develop the Mekong Delta and will seek the NA’s approval to pour an additional VND3.4 trillion from the medium-term public investment plan and the state budget reserves for this year to implement development projects in the delta.

The Mekong Delta is the world's third largest river delta. The Mekong River reaches Vietnam after flowing through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.

For decades, the delta, which spreads over 40,577 square kilometers (15,670 square miles) and is possibly the lowest in the world, has been a rice bowl and aquaculture hub meeting not only the country's food demands but also serving exports.

Before Climate Central released its latest findings, other experts have warned several times about the sinking of the Mekong Delta, with some saying it could be flooded by 2100.

In 2016, Vietnam's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment sketched out scenarios on climate crisis impacts and rising sea levels, which predicted that sea level would increase by one meter by 2100, and would potentially flood about 18 percent of HCMC and 39 percent of the Mekong Delta.

Apart from the series of dams along the Mekong River, experts have also blamed overexploitation of groundwater and sand for many problems facing the delta and its residents.

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