El Nino causing unusual dry spell across Vietnam's Mekong Delta: expert

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This farmer in the Mekong Delta’s Long An Province used to catch little fish from the Mekong’s autumnal flood for his fish farm, but there’s no flood this year and he has to buy the feed. Photo: Son Lam/Tuoi Tre This farmer in the Mekong Delta’s Long An Province used to catch little fish from the Mekong’s autumnal flood for his fish farm, but there’s no flood this year and he has to buy the feed. Photo: Son Lam/Tuoi Tre

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The Mekong Delta, Vietnam's rice basket, is facing a historic dry period as intense El Nino conditions have changed rainfall patterns, an expert said. 
The delta usually saw very high rainfall during every monsoon season. 
But this year that is not the case, with water levels in many places dropping to record lows. 
Dang Van Dung, deputy director of the Southern Hydro-meteorology Forecast Center, told Tuoi Tre in an interview published Friday that due to the strong El Nino, there’s little rain both upstream and downstream of the Mekong.
The water level recorded in the delta’s An Giang Province has hit the lowest in history, Dung said, adding that even the strong El Nino years of 1997 and 1998 were less dry. 
The current El Nino, which is expected to last into next year, has been considered as one of the most intense in at least two decades. 
Dung said this year's monsoon will end in early November, so there’s very little hope for better weather conditions. 
He said hydropower dams upstream of in the Mekong are also to blame because they hold up water, causing droughts in the Mekong Delta. 
Experts have been accusing the dams for worsening salinization in the delta in recent years.
Dung said that this year, salinity can be a serious problem, affecting not only rivers in the delta but also the Saigon and Dong Nai Rivers.
“People should make plans to store fresh water and consider switching their crops into more suitable plants," he said. 

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