Satellite images show massive erosion of Vietnamese coastline

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Thanh Hoa Province is now ten times closer to the sea than it was 20 years ago. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

Official surveys based on satellite images show that the sea is encroaching on Vietnam at a rapid rate along its 3,000 kilometers of coastline.

The southernmost province of Ca Mau has lost an average of 1.5 kilometers of beachfront over the last 40 years, according to satellite images taken by NASA in 1972 and the latest ones taken this year by Vietnamese satellite VNREDSat-1, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Images between 2005 and 2010 showed that the eastern coast of Ca Mau has eroded by 200 meters, or 40 meters a year.

Dang Truong Giang from the National Remote Sensing Agency at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said some government offices in the province are only a few meters from the sea at high tides.

Nguyen Thanh Minh, head of Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands at the ministry, said the problem is found not only in Ca Mau. He said the two-year survey by his unit exposed a national dilemma.

The survey found constant sea encroachment along the northern coast from Quang Ninh to Ninh Binh Provinces since 1930, and encroachment of 15-100 meters a year in many parts of the central coast.

It said the problem was only spotted along the southern coast in 1960, but has developed severely, especially in Ca Mau, Tra Vinh and Ho Chi Minh City's Can Gio District.

A full report will be presented at an ASEAN meeting in Bangkok this month, Minh said.

People living in coastal villages of Thanh Hoa Province, not far from Hanoi, told Tuoi Tre they had seen more than enough of their houses, trees and land being "eaten" by the sea.

Tran Minh Thao, a 70-year-old local, used the Notre Dame Cathedral as a landmark, as it was around 200 meters from the nearest waves more than 20 years ago, but the gap has been narrowed to some 20-30 meters.

Thao said the encroachment started after a typhoon in 1989 and has become uglier every year.

His neighbor Nguyen Van Tan, 72, said: "The waves eat one or two meters of land every year. We've kept losing houses, land, fields, and roads."

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