Vietnam asks China to open dams to relieve drought in Mekong Delta

By Vuong Duc Anh   March 18, 2016 | 08:11 am GMT+7
Vietnam asks China to open dams to relieve drought in Mekong Delta
Local communities in many southern provinces of Vietnam are suffering from the worst drought and salinity recorded in the Mekong Delta in the last century.

Hanoi sent a formal request to Beijing on March 14 asking for one of China's hydropower stations to release more water into the Mekong River to help relieve the Delta's crippling drought.

Vietnam is one of several downstream countries which the Mekong River flows through before it empties into the East Sea.

Vietnamese authorities have asked China’s Jinghong hydropower plant, located in an upstream section of the Mekong River in Yunnan Province, to release more water out of its reservoir. This would assist disaster relief efforts in some parts of Vietnam's Delta area.

“Through diplomatic channels, Vietnam has requested China increase water outflows from Jinghong hydropower station to the Mekong River, relieving a number of Vietnam provinces in the Mekong Delta suffering from the affects of drought and salinity,” Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Deputy Speaker, Pham Thu Hang said. “We applaud the Chinese authorities for agreeing to cooperate and carry out the emergency water release during the period from March 15 to April 4.”

“Every country along the Mekong River has a responsibility to protect and utilize the water source in a sustainable way to ensure the balance of interest of all countries and people living in the area”, she added.

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The irrigation system in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, which is still being developed, has been under severe pressure since the drought hit.

Parts of the Delta have been experiencing the most serious drought and saltwater encroachment in the past 100 years. The disaster was brought on by a lack of rainfall and prolonged high temperatures, and the situation is not expected to improve until the rainy season begins in May.

The latest report from the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture showed that the El Nino weather pattern caused the rainy season to begin late and finish early in 2015. The avaerage rainfall across the river basin was down by between 20 to 50 percent. On major river systems flowing through the Mekong Delta, salinity intrusion had extended between 40 to 90 km inland, an increase of 10 to15 km on previous years.

As a result, nearly 340,000 of the 1.5 million hectares of rice producing land in the western provinces of the South are at risk, according to the report.

Minister of Agriculture Cao Duc Phat, in his earlier report to the government regarding the situation on March 7, called the calamity in the southern provinces a “historical disaster”.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced that Vietnam would allocate VND 15 trillion ($670 million), to come from government bonds and ODA projects, to combat the worsening situation.

 
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