Vietnam’s Mekong Delta may be wiped out in 100 years

By Huu Cong - Huy Phong   September 26, 2017 | 03:12 am PT
Officials have warned of a bleak future for the country's rice basket.

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta could be wiped off the face of the planet over the next century if drastic measures are not taken, officials said at a national conference in the delta’s capital city Can Tho on Tuesday.

The delta, home to around 20 million people and responsible for half of Vietnam’s rice output, is losing ground to erosion along its 800-kilometer (497-mile) coastline almost every day, mostly along the Tien and Hau rivers that spill into the giant Mekong River.

Figures from the environment ministry showed that the delta has been losing around 300 hectares (741 acres) of land to erosion every year since 2005, while most of it sank by between five and 10 centimeters from 2010 to 2015. The issue is even more severe in coastal areas.

“Experts have warned that without intervention, the delta will be gone in 100 years,” Nguyen Van The, the top leader of Soc Trang Province, said at the two-day conference that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is scheduled to address on Wednesday.


Families along a river in the Mekong Delta. Photo by VnExpress

The delta is at risk from a number of factors, from the millions of wells that are drying up the groundwater to the hydropower dams that hold alluvial deposits upstream.

Tran Thuc, vice chairman of the government's advisory panel on climate change, said that subsidence is the most serious threat to the Mekong Delta.

Thuc said there are 144 hydropower dams planned for the Mekong that would cause significant changes to the water levels and reduce the amount of mud and sand flowing downstream.

“They could cause permanent damage to biodiversity in the region. Some important species could become extinct, and communities within a 15-kilometer radius who rely on fishing and farming would be affected,” he said.

He said the drop in sediment would change river currents and allow seawater to encroach further upstream, aggravating the risks of extreme weather.

People in the delta have become familiar with drought and saline intrusion in recent years, but they have not seen a typhoon for two decades.

Officials said that people in the delta should be prepared for a bleak future.

Residents will need to look at short-term scenarios, such as what is going to happen in the next five or 10 years and what plants and animals will be able to survive on their farms.

“They will have to adapt to changes, so they will need support from the government,” he said.

For now, take a look at how erosion is taking a toll on the region.

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