Sand mining devours Mekong River bank

By Cuu Long   March 4, 2022 | 12:04 am PT
Sand mining devours Mekong River bank
A section of the National Highway 91 next to the Hau River is eroded away, May 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long
Around 500 hectares of riverbank are lost yearly across the Mekong Delta to excessive sand mining, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the agriculture ministry.

In a Thursday conference on maintaining the shape of the Mekong Delta region, organized by the WWF and Vietnam Disaster Management Authority under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, organizers stressed that river sand is frequently mined across the delta.

While there are over 80 companies approved to mine 28 million tons of river sand every year, the actual amount of mined sand is hard to be verified and managed, they said.

In the delta, around 25 million tons of sediment (including sand, mud and clay) are lost every year due to sand mining, with most trapped by hydropower plants. More sediments are expected to be lost in future too.

Le Thanh Chuong, director of the research center for river management and disaster prevention under the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research, said there are over 620 erosion points in the delta, spanning around 610 kilometers in total.

"The main causes of river erosion are ascribed to flow, weak geological properties along the coast, upstream reservoirs, sand mining, infrastructure and construction along riverbanks and impacts from water traffic," said Chuong, adding that illegal sand mining continues unabated due to high construction demands.

Too much sand mining would severely impact people's lives across the delta, reducing biodiversity along riverbanks and increasing risks from salt intrusion, high tides and sea level rise. These environmental impacts could harm the delta's resilience and threaten its agriculture, economy and biodiversity, Chuong said.

Experts have proposed research into sand reservoirs in the Mekong Delta as a foundation for policies regarding sustainable sand mining.

The Mekong Delta, which spans over 3.9 million hectares, is Vietnam's rice basket that contributes over 17 percent of the GDP, 54 percent of rice, 70 percent of fishery products and 60 percent of fruits in the country.

It is also home to around 20 million people.

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