World Bank backs Vietnam's climate change fight with $310 million loan

By Toan Dao   June 12, 2016 | 02:43 pm GMT+7

The World Bank (WB) has approved a $310 million loan to help Vietnam tackle climate change and ensure the sustainable livelihoods of local residents in the Mekong Delta.

Around 1.2 million people in nine Mekong Delta provinces who have been affected by climate change, salinity intrusion, coastal erosion and flooding will benefit from the Mekong Delta Integrated Climate Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods Project, the bank said in a statement on June 10.

“Recent extreme weather in the Mekong River Delta, including drought and salinity intrusion, are negatively affecting the lives of the farmers – most of whom are poor,” said Achim Fock, acting country director for the WB in Vietnam. “We believe this innovative project brings together an effective multi-sectoral model to help farmers adapt agriculture and aquaculture livelihoods to the impacts of climate change.”

Salinity flooding in Can Tho City. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long

Salinity flooding in Can Tho City. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long

Vietnam’s annual rice exports of $4 billion account for more than one-fifth of the global total. The Mekong Delta alone contributes half of Vietnam’s rice, 70 percent of its aquaculture products, and one-third of Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP). But the region has also been identified as one of the deltas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as well as upstream development, according to the WB.

The project will support climate-smart planning and improve climate resilience when it comes to land and water management. It will benefit farmers (especially rice) in the upper delta provinces and aquaculture farms and fishing households along the coastal provinces in the region, including the Khmer ethnic minority people in the provinces of Soc Trang and Tra Vinh.

The WB also said the estimated cost for the project is $387 million. It is unclear where the remaining $77 million will come from.

Turbulent weather, caused by El Nino, has buffeted the Mekong Delta since the end of 2014, taking a heavy toll on rice production. The Delta contributes around 55 percent of Vietnam’s rice output. As of March 14 this year, 9 out of 13 provinces or nearly 40 percent of the delta area were affected by the historic drought and salinity, government data has shown.

Vinh Long, one of the worst hit province in the Mekong Delta, on Saturday asked the central government to provide VND751 billion ($33.2 million) to help fight the prolonged drought and salinity in the province. The funding will be used to build irrigation projects.

In May, Japan and the EU pledged $2.5 million and $100,000 grants, respectively, to help Vietnam deal with the drought and salinity.

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