Mekong Delta’s rice turn fragile to hydropower plants

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese scientists have voiced their deep concern about the fate of the Mekong Delta and the Vietnamese rice farming in the context of the hydropower plant boom.

mekong delta, rice, hydropower plants

If the Mekong River is compared as a tree, then the upstream part which runs through the Chinese and Myanmar’s territories would be the main root, the river branches pouring into the mainstream are aerial root. The mainstream from Laos to Vietnam is the tree trunk; the ramifications running to the sea are the branches of the tree, while the deltas along the river bank are the leaves.

“The Mekong tree’s parts have been cut down. The decision on building the hydropower plants on the tributaries flowing into the Mekong River is the stab of a knife cut into the aerial roots. The Chinese dams on the mainstream are the stabs on the main root.

While the Lao Xayaburi dam is the stab on the stump,” said Dr Duong Van Ni from the Can Tho University, when talking about the fate of the Mekong Delta amid the danger from the hydropower plant dams on Mekong valley.

“A tree which has roots, branches, and trunk cut down will get withered. This could be the image of our future, if the Mekong tree continues to be cut and destroyed,” he added.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese scientists still have not considered the possible influences of the hydropower plants on Mekong River mainstream when drawing up the program to get adapted to the climate change, according to Le Anh Tuan, Deputy Head of the Institute for Climate Change Research, Advisor to the Vietnam River Network.

Tuan said the problem is that it’s still unclear when the dams would be built, when they would be operational and how they would run. Meanwhile, it would be beyond the capacity of the Mekong River Delta’s provinces to consider all the possibilities.

A master plan on handling the climate change is being draw up. However, it is very difficult to program the water use. If the dams become operational, they may damage all the Vietnamese measures to get adapted to the climate change.

Ni has warned that Vietnam, while feeling happy about the amount of rice export of several millions of tons every year, forgets that the environment changes may lead to the sharp falls in the rice output. Especially, the water resource is not under the control of Vietnam.

Though Vietnam and Cambodia have expressed their deep concerns about the plans to develop hydropower plants on the Mekong River, the first dam on the lower course of the river still has been built. It’s still unclear if there are more dams to be developed on the river.

Meanwhile, water is indispensable for rice farming. There will be no rice if there is no water. Therefore, no one dares to come forward and give predictions about the Vietnamese rice output in the future.

The Mekong provides the volume of water big enough for Vietnam to produce 24 million tons of rice every year, including the 7 million tons for export. In order to make one kilo of rice, farmers need 4.5 cubic meters of water. This means that Vietnam would need many billions of cubic meters of water to make 7 million tons of rice for export.

Thien Nhien

mekong delta, rice, hydropower plants