Around 41,900 hectares of the winter-spring rice crop in provinces in the Mekong Delta were affected this year; of which, 26,000 hectares of rice ended in dead loss.
On June 20, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) cooperated with the People’s Committee of Long An Province held a conference to summarize the results of the prevention of drought, water shortage, and saltwater intrusion in the dry season of 2019-2020 in the Mekong Delta and discuss solutions to develop sustainable agriculture.
The MARD said that saltwater intrusion in the dry season of 2019-2020 had some characteristics different from the rule of many years, such as it came three months earlier than the average of many years, and nearly one month earlier compared to that in the dry season of 2015-2016 – the worst saltwater intrusion in history; saltwater intrusion lasted 2-2.5 times longer than that in the dry season of 2015-2016; the salinity levels at Cua Tieu, Cua Dai, and Ham Luong estuaries had continuously maintained at the peak from February to May, they almost did not decline or declined insignificantly at low tides which is different from normal features of salinity, increasing at high tides and decreasing at low tides.
The reason for the increase in saline intrusion was a shortage of water from the upper Mekong River. In the dry season of 2019-2020, water to the Mekong Delta was much lower than that in recent years, thereby affecting ten out of 13 provinces in the region. The area affected by the salinity of 4 grams per liter was 1.68 million hectares, much higher than a total area of 50,376 hectares in 2016.
To cope with the complicated situation of drought and saltwater intrusion, the MARD cooperated closely with relevant ministries, and the Mekong Delta provinces to actively apply many solutions; at the same time, quickly implement the Prime Minister's Directive on the prevention of drought, saltwater intrusion, and water shortage in the Mekong Delta. Besides, the construction of irrigation works was built quickly to put into operation, including Au Ninh Quoi sluice, Xuan Hoa pumping station in Tien Giang Province, Tan Dinh, Bong Bot and Vung Liem sluices which belong to Southern Mang Thit project, and 18 salinity control sluices under the North Ben Tre project.
Although many measures have been applied, saltwater intrusion and drought had damaged 16,500 hectares of winter rice crop grown on shrimp-farming land in Ca Mau Province last year; of which, 14,000 hectares of winter rice had been completely lost. Around 41,900 hectares of the winter-spring rice crop in provinces in the Mekong Delta were affected this year; of which, 26,000 hectares of rice ended in dead loss. Up to 6,650 hectares of fruit trees were hit by saltwater intrusion; of which around 355 hectares of fruit trees were a complete loss. Thousands of hectares of vegetables and more than 8,715 hectares of the aquafarming area were damaged.
Besides, due to prolonged drought, 96,000 households or about 430,000 people suffered a shortage of water for daily life, lower than the dry season in 2015-2016 when there were 210,000 households facing water shortage. Worryingly, landslide and subsidence occurred in many places in the Mekong Delta as drought, prolonged water shortage resulted in low water levels on the canals. For instance, in the freshwater area in Go Cong District in Tien Giang Province, there were 112 points of landslide with a total length of 15,920 meters; in Ca Mau Province, 240 meters of the West sea dike system were collapsed, 4,215 meters of the dike is on the verge of subsidence and 24,957 meters of rural roads were sunk; in Kien Giang Province, subsidence was about 1,500 meters long; in An Giang alone, there were nine points of landslide with a total length of 225 meters, eight houses must be evacuated urgently with an estimated damage of about VND1.7 billion.
Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong of the MARD acknowledged that drought and saltwater intrusion in the dry season of 2019-2020 in the Mekong Delta is the most severe in history. However, the early and close guidance of the Government has helped the agricultural sector and provinces to implement coping solutions well; besides, thanks to accurate forecasting, the provinces have arranged suitable agricultural production structures in the condition of water shortage. Therefore, the level of loss of agricultural production and livelihoods was significantly reduced. It should be noted that this historic salinity is not the last one, because climate change, weather changes, and natural disasters are increasingly unpredictable. Hence, provinces in the Mekong Delta should consider drought and saltwater intrusion inevitable to actively prepare measures to tackle it.