UN promises to help Vietnam overcome worst water crisis in decades

By Khoa Chien, Thanh Nien News

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Children walk on a dry, cracked field in the Mekong Delta. Photo: Cong Han Children walk on a dry, cracked field in the Mekong Delta. Photo: Cong Han


The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Kenneth Eliasson has pledged to bring international support to the drought-ravaged Mekong Delta after his visit Thursday.
Eliasson joined officials from Vietnam’s agriculture ministry to Ben Tre Province, the hardest hit in the delta. The region is going through the worst drought and saltwater intrusion in history.
Truong Duy Hai, vice chairman of the province, said more than 80,000 families lack fresh water and have to resort to salty water.
He said salt water has encroached 50 kilometers deep into the land.
Luong Quang Xo, deputy head of the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research, said during the trip that the saltwater intrusion has hit around two million hectares of various crops and seafood farms in the delta, which is home to more than 16 million people.
Xo blamed the water crisis on hydropower dams in the upstream part of the Mekong River, which hold back water and dry up the lower reaches amid intense El Nino conditions.
Eliasson said the trip gave him clear ideas of the situation and the UN will try it best to support those affected people, including calling for more aid from international charities and environmental organizations.
 UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Kenneth Eliasson (L) during a visit to Ben Tre Province on May 5. Photo: Khoa Chien
He said the global body will also facilitate more coordination among Mekong River countries so that they can share water resources effectively.
Eliasson said Vietnamese drought victims will not be alone, promising to report the situation at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul later this month.
The UN and the Vietnam government earlier estimated the country will need $48.5 million of international aid as the crippling drought has put at least two million people in southern and central Vietnam in water shortages. Around 1.1 million are also in need of food support.
The UN is also campaigning for a global fund worth $3.4 billion to help more than 20 countries, including Vietnam, deal with climate change impacts.

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