Last update 8/1/2011 9:53:00 AM (GMT+7)

The Mekong Delta’s deadly foibles
VietNamNet Bridge – Poor infrastructure, particularly the transport system, is the deadly weak point of the Mekong Delta.

There is the fact that prosperity accompanies with good transport systems and vice versa. It is true with the Mekong Delta.

Underdeveloped land transport system

In his lecture entitled “How to help the Mekong Delta from legging behind”, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, deputy general director of the Fulbright Economic Teaching Program, said that when he asked Prof. Vo Tong Xuan, former director of the An Giang University, that in the 1960-1970, how long did it take to go from Saigon to Can Tho city. Prof. Xuan answered “around four and a half hour”.

Nearly half of a century has passed, the time to travel from the Mekong Delta to HCM City and other economic-trade centers of Vietnam has not been shortened much, Dr. Tu Anh said. Specifically, only 5 percent of rural roads in the region can serve cars. It means up to 95 percent of the remaining roads need to be expanded and upgraded.

The 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta have an interlacing system of canals and rivers, with hundreds of bridges that were built in the early 20th century. Even on national highways, there are still bridges with tonnage of between 4 to 10 tons, which are seriously damaged, causing danger to even motorbikes and bicycles.

Prof. Xuan, who has close attachment to the Mekong Delta, said that this region does not have many 5m-wide roads. Pathways are the most popular. There are some newly-built national highways and provincial ways but they cannot satisfy the requirement of development. For example, National Highway 50 in Tien Giang Province, built by the Ministry of Transport, is only 7.5m wide, instead of 12m as usual.

Actually, the backwardness of the Mekong Delta’s transport is new at all and it has been discussed at many workshops.

Nguyen Van Son, an expert from the Institute for Research and Development of the Mekong Delta, said: “Roads in the Mekong Delta has only rural values, not transport values. The transport facilities in this region are the worst in Vietnam, only above the northwestern mountainous region”.

Poor transport infrastructure hinders traveling, studies, circulation of goods. The increase of transport cost is resulted in losses for farmers. Son estimated that perhaps farmers in the Mekong Delta have to pay 15 percent of their income for traveling and goods transport.

River ways are stuck

As the key region for producing rice and seafood for export, the Mekong Delta needs to import-export from 12 to 13 million tons of goods. Tricky--while the road transport system is poor, the waterway system is also stuck.

The two main waterway routes of the Mekong Delta are the HCM City – Kien Luong and HCM City – Ca Mau, which meet at the Cho Gao canal (the intersection between the Tien River and the Vam Co Tay River).

While 13 provinces in the region share the two main routes to HCM City, the Dinh An sea passage has got dry for many years, big ships cannot enter. Consequently, 70 percent of goods for the Mekong Delta are imported via ports in HCM City.

Poor transportation makes profit from agricultural produces reduces while input costs are rising. Farmers in the Mekong Delta, which has great potential for agriculture, are still among the poorest.

Son from the Research and Development of the Mekong Delta questioned, “Is it fair when the Red River in Hanoi, the Han River in Da Nang have many bridges while seven provinces in the south of the Hau River have only one bridge – My Thuan (opened for traffic in 2009) and nearly ten other provinces in the Mekong Delta share the Can Tho bridge (inaugurated in 2010). Compared with the delta’s development ability, it needs more than these bridges”.

He wished if the state spends only 10 percent of the estimated investment for the North-South express railway to build the transport system in the Mekogn Delta, the region will surely change in the next ten years.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently stated: “The government continues to attach special attention to the Mekong Delta, with specially favorable policies to assist this region to change quickly. The government has decided to invest in many big projects in order to quickly develop the infrastructure in the region. The government defines the Mekong Delta as the great energy center of the country in future”.

The policy has been worked out, but let’s wait and see how the Prime Minister’s instruction are implemented?

Thu Ha