Vietnam's Mekong Delta crying out for flood waters, again

By Cuu Long   October 11, 2016 | 09:00 am PT
White fish, crabs and water lilies are proving hard to find for farmers.

Only a few people are catching fish on the flooded fields in Dong Thap Province, as the low water levels means there is not much to look for. The delta locals, who spend most of their lives crisscrossing rivers, have grown accustomed to the annual rise of the rivers and have learned to make the best of things. But the floods did not come last year, and El Nino put Vietnam through its worst drought in 100 years. The situation did not improve much this year.


Phan Van Don in An Giang Province points to how high the waters rose in 2010. “Because there were no floods, young men have left to work in factories,” Don said. The water levels on the Hau and Tien rivers, two tributaries of the Mekong River in Vietnam, were 2.7 meters and 2.3 meters on Monday, and are forecast to peak at 3.2 meters this weekend.


A man in Dong Thap empties his small catch of 'linh', a common white fish, after many hours of fishing. The floods used to bring catches worth trillions of dong to people in the delta.


Another man shows a catch, lamenting: “This is little.” He said he could net around 100 kilograms of fish a day during the flood season years ago. “Now I can only find five or seven kilos.”


This couple returned with empty nets.


Huynh Van Giang in An Giang fixes traps to catch crabs around the flooded fields. He said the 250 traps only catch him around 10 kilograms or $7 worth of crabs a day.


Crab wholesalers who supply to Ho Chi Minh City used to buy 12 tons a day from farmers, but they have only collected three to five tons a day this year.


There are also fewer water lilies, enough to make this man smile though.


'Dien dien' (Sesbania sesban) flowers, which can be fried or dunked in hot soup, have also become rare and more expensive. The flowers are selling for VND50,000 or $2.24 a kilo, nearly twice more than in previous years.


Many farmers are also worried that the low floods will not wash alum, salinity and pests off their fields, or enrich them with nutrients.


In Hau Giang Province, many rice fields are dry enough for farmers to set them on fire. “This has never happened before,” said Nguyen Van Dong, director of the province’s Agriculture Department.

Photos by VnExpress

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