Vietnamese PM makes $1 billion pledge to tackle climate change in Mekong Delta

By Huu Cong, Huy Phong   September 27, 2017 | 02:49 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese PM makes $1 billion pledge to tackle climate change in Mekong Delta
Big catches from a flooded rice field in the Mekong Delta. Photo by Huynh Phuc Hau

The Prime Minister promises to take the best measures to make the Mekong Delta 'remain a rich part of Vietnam.'

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has pledged $1 billion to the country's Mekong Delta to fund projects aimed at tackling climate change amid warnings that the country’s rice basket is disappearing.

The funding will come from the state budget, the World Bank and other sources, Phuc said at a national conference held in Can Tho City to discuss sustainable development in the delta.

A detailed timeframe for the disbursement was not discussed, but Phuc promised that the best and most suitable measures will be taken so that “the Mekong Delta will remain a rich part of Vietnam.”

He advised against panic and called for new thinking to bring a better life to the nearly 20 million people who call the delta home.

Phuc took a two-hour helicopter ride over the delta on Tuesday around two months after taking a similar trip in the Netherlands to view how the Dutch are adapting to climate change.

He said he is optimistic about the future of the delta.

His statement came on the second day of the two-day conference after officials warned of a bleak future for the delta and urged for more government support.

They said the delta is losing more and more each day to erosion and subsidence, and that it may be gone in 100 years without drastic intervention.

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

Tran Thuc, vice chairman of the government’s advisory panel on climate change, said that 144 hydropower dams planned for the Mekong would cause significant changes to the water levels and reduce the amount of mud and sand flowing downstream, leading to “permanent” damage to the delta's biodiversity and the extinction of some important species.

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

Officials said that people in the delta, which produces half of Vietnam’s rice output, will need to be prepared for different scenarios, such as what is going to happen in the next five or 10 years, what plants and animals will be able to survive on their farms, and what they should do in case of typhoons, a phenomenon they have not seen for two decades.