Sea change

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Rising sea levels and land sinkage are proving to be a double-whammy in the Mekong Delta, where residents are constantly forced to raise their homes to remain above water.

Residents in Dat Mui Commune, Ngoc Hien District, in the southernmost province of Ca Mau said tides flood the area twice a month for three days at a time.

The Ca Mau Province Irrigation Bureau said the sea level has gradually risen by 70 centimeters since 2007-08. As a result, high tides, which peaked at 1.5 meters in 2007, rose to 2.1 meters last year.

Around 20,000 hectares of farmland are submerged during high tide now, twice the 2007 level.

Locals, whose houses are regularly flooded, have no option but to raise their homes.

Vo Cong Truong, deputy chairman of the Dat Mui People's Committee, said commune authorities are planning to build a new administrative office on stilts since the existing office is often flooded.

Scientists also fear that sinkage of land in many places in the delta and severe erosion of river banks and coastal lands are worsening the flooding in the Mekong Delta.

Le Anh Tuan of the Can Tho University said a study found that the Ca Mau peninsula had sunk by 45 millimeters in just eight months from June 2011, but that it had nothing to do with construction works.

"It means the Mekong Delta is facing danger caused by rising sea levels combined with depression," he said.

Le Xuan Thuyen of the University of Natural Sciences said he and other partners are working on a climate change project, and early results showed signs of sinkage in the delta.

This could be caused by many factors, he said. It could be a natural phenomenon since the delta's land surface is weak, but it could also be due to over-exploitation of groundwater and changes in the quantity of alluvium, he added.

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