Damming menaces water security in Mekong Delta

VietNamNet Bridge – Experts have described increasing damming in the Mekong River in China, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia as a major threat to water security in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, calling on the Government to take prompt measures to deal with the situation.

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Illustrative image -- Photo: Zing.vn

Nguyen Nhan Quang, an independent expert in river basin management, said at a workshop in Hanoi last week that the Mekong Delta suffered the worst drought in 100 years in the 2015-2016 dry season. Drought worsened saltwater intrusion, taking a heavy toll on agriculture and people in the country’s largest rice producing region.

Drought and salinity were attributable to the El Nino phenomenon and the adverse impact of dams built in the upper reaches of the Mekong River, Quang said.

Besides China’s large-scale hydropower system in the upper reaches of the river, about 12 dams will be built in the river. Moreover, Mekong nations are carrying out programs to take more water from the river to support their agricultural expansion.

As the Mekong Delta is in the downstream, Vietnam is facing risks from the agricultural expansion of the upstream countries.

Thailand is implementing projects to build 30 reservoirs along the tributaries of the Mekong River flowing through the country to store water for farming and channel water from the river to the northeastern part.

Cambodia is investing heavily in its irrigation system by using water from the Mekong River.

Dang Thi Ha Giang from the Water, Irrigation and Environment Institute said conflicts of interest in the countries relying on water resources from the Mekong River are inevitable. Water exploitation in the upstream will cost the downstream countries dearly if it is done without due consideration.

Giang said the Mekong Delta had felt severe impact of the recent drought and saltwater intrusion with the livelihoods of local residents suffering the most.

However, Giang noted that coping with drought and salinity would be a tall order since the regional countries have yet to find common ground on this matter.

Nguyen Hong Toan from the Vietnam National Mekong Committee underlined the need to seriously assess the impact of water use projects in other countries on Vietnam and at the same time find ways to make the most of water from the river.

The countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion need to see that it is crucial to share benefits among countries in the basin of the river and work toward a win-win solution.

Expert Quang asked relevant agencies to actively get updates about damming and water use projects in the countries along the river so as to timely propose proper ways for the Government to protect Vietnam’s interests in the Mekong Delta.

Quang proposed restructuring farming in a way that develops crops reliant on less water and not solely growing rice paddy.

The Mekong River has a basin of nearly 800,000 square kilometers and supplies around 475 billion cubic meters of water a year. Of the total volume, China makes up 16%, Myanmar 2%, Laos 35%, Thailand 18%, Cambodia 18% and Vietnam 11%.

Van Ly

    
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