Drought, saltwater intrusion cause hefty losses

Drought and salinity have caused losses of VND5.6 trillion (US$249.89 million) for large swaths of the Central Highlands, south-central and Mekong Delta regions.

However, the the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development warned that these regions would suffer more if the calamity remains unabated in the coming months.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hoang Van Thang told a meeting with the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee in Hanoi on Monday that the protracted El Nino phenomenon has dealt a heavy blow to many countries, including Vietnam.  

According to the ministry’s latest report, rainfalls in the Central Highlands and south-central regions have stayed low since end-2015 so water levels in major reservoirs are now far lower than the average of previous years. Many smaller reservoirs and rivers have dried up.

Protracted drought has hit 70% of the total farming area in Central Highlands and south-central provinces.

In the Mekong Delta, saltwater has made its way to paddy fields two months sooner than in previous years as the rainy season began late last year but ended earlier than usual. Water levels in the Mekong River have dipped to a 90-year low.

Saltwater has traveled 90 kilometers inland in many parts of the Mekong Delta.  Eleven out of 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta said saltwater had impacted on agriculture and caused fresh water shortages.

Updated reports of provinces in the Central Highlands, south-central and Mekong Delta regions showed that more than 390,000 households had run short of fresh water as of April 22 and water shortages had wreaked havoc on over 240,000 hectares of rice, more than 18,000 hectares of other crops, 55,600 hectares of orchards, and 100,000 hectares of industrial trees. Around 4,600 hectares of fisheries had been damaged.

Around 63% of the agricultural acreage in Binh Thuan Province and half in neighboring Ninh Thuan Province cannot be used for the next crop, and large areas have been used to grow short-term and drought-resistant crops, according to the ministry.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat assigned staff to assist affected provinces in cultivation.

The ministry estimated one million tons of paddy of the winter-spring and summer-autumn rice crops could be lost.

SGT
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