Agricultural experts: 'Saline intrusion is a chance to get rich'

VietNamNet Bridge - Many scientists believe that reducing the area of wet rice cultivation to shift to aquaculture to utilize the available saltwater resources will be an opportunity for farmers in the Mekong Delta to get rich.

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Regarding the current severe drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta, the southern part of the central region and the central highlands, Professor Vo Tong Xuan, a well-known agricultural expert, said that the state and the people must adapt to the situation.

"We should be a friend with saltwater because it will be an opportunity to get rich. The thinkingthat saltwater is the enemy is no longer appropriate," he said.

Professor Xuan said in the area affected by saltwater, people should shift from rice cultivation to the sustainable farming models, such as the rice - shrimp, ie planting rice when the rainy season begins and harvesting rice at the end of the rainy season. After that farmers can take saltwater into the field to breed shrimp, crab and other seafood.

"Farmers in My Xuyen District, Soc Trang province, have applied this model and earned income 4-5 times higher than rice cultivation. Many other coastal districts are also applying it and earn high profit," Professor Xuan said.

The shift, said Professor Xuan, is suitable with the Government's decision to restructure the agricultural sector, to devote rice land to other crops and domestic animals.

Dr. Nguyen Huu Thien, a researcher on the Mekong Delta, also advised people to gradually adapt to the changes by switching to salt farming systems. It is inappropriate to maintain rice cultivation in the name of food security because Vietnam is the second largest rice exporter in the world.

"Cultivation of rice in coastal harsh conditions is inconsistent and it is even worse to grow rice in the coastal area in the dry season," he said.

According to Dr. Thien, instead of building big works to control the saltwater, with unexpected consequences, Vietnam should build moderate projects at the local level, to control seasonal salinity.

Meanwhile, though agreeing with the need to restructure crops to suit the natural conditions, Dr. To Van Truong, former Director of the Southern Irrigation Planning Institute, expressed concern, because even the tiger prawns need freshwater. In fact oysters died massively in Ben Tre province because of high salinity, due to shortage of fresh water.

To prevent and respond to salinity, Dr. Truong proposed that weather information must be supplied to farmers early, about 3-6 months in advance so farmers can restructure crops reasonably to avoid losses.

According to this expert, El Nino and La Nina have different cycles, but there are clear rules. Therefore, relevant bodies should conduct research to minimize damage to production.

In this regard, Dr. Nguyen Huu Thien said that the saltwater intrusion can be anticipated a few months in advance without a warning system.

New growth model to cope with disasters

There is no basis to assume that the impacts of economic crisis and the El Nino weather pattern will become the double obsessions in Vietnam’s economy like they were two decades ago because the country is on the rise, Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue, Head of the Central Economic Committee, told local media.

He made the prediction amid some public concern about history repeating. In the 1997-1998 period Vietnam suffered from the severe effects of El Nino and economic crisis at the same time. Since the end of 2014 Vietnam has again suffered from the El Nino weather pattern, which is forecast to last more than 20 months - the longest in 60 years.

Mr. Hue acknowledged that climate change has had a negative impact on many regions around the country. By February 29, he said, 13 cities and provinces in the Mekong Delta officially announced saltwater intrusion and declared drought. Ca Mau province has experienced the most damage to its rice crop, losing over 49,000 ha.

Moreover, global warming has made Vietnam’s weather become unpredictable.

Under the circumstances, Vietnam has made great efforts to overcome the situation and to turn challenges in weather disasters into opportunities. Guidelines were identified in Resolution No. 24, which will drive the transformation to a new growth model.  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that Vietnam’s GDP growth could be 7 per cent within the next five years and it will be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The World Bank, meanwhile, said that achieving growth of 6.68 per cent last year made Vietnam one of fastest growing economies in the region. Looking at internal and external factors, Mr. Hue believes in the resilience of the country’s economy. VNA

Thu Ly
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