Upstream dams blamed for shrinking Mekong Delta

By Chi Nhan - Tran Tam, Thanh Nien News

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A farmer harvesting rice in the Mekong Delta. Photo: Chi Nhan A farmer harvesting rice in the Mekong Delta. Photo: Chi Nhan

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Vietnam may lose 40 percent of the Mekong Delta to rising sea levels in the next century, officials and experts said during a conference held Monday and Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City.
Those losses could be even worse if nations along the river continue to aggressively pursue plans to dam the river.
“There has never been a time when the Mekong Delta faces so many challenges, including the negative impacts of climate change and sea level rise, as well as pressure from unsustainable socio-economic development,” Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Minh Quang said at the Mekong Delta Forum.
“The future is uncertain… We need a roadmap with different scenarios for the region’s development, including projections on the possible impact of climate change and upstream development plan," he said.
Professor Dao Xuan Hoc of the Water Resources University also said that human interventions to the flow of the Mekong River are taking their toll.
“Vietnam's downstream communities have already suffered from damage caused by salinization and erosion brought on by upstream dams,” he said at Monday's conference in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Mekong River, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity, flows for over 4,800 km (3,045 miles) through six countries, and supports over 80 million people.
China has built seven dams along the upstream Mekong and has planned or is building 20 others.
Laos and Cambodia have plans for another 11, including the US$3.8-billion Xayaburi, which Laos began building in 2012.
During the recent forum, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai underscored the delta's importance to the development of the whole of southern Vietnam and the country as a whole.
“The Mekong Delta supports 27 percent of Vietnam's GDP, 90 percent of its rice exports and 60 percent of fishery exports. However, the region is facing enormous challenges related to water resources, salinization and other negative impacts of climate change.”
Experts have warned that climate change could raise temperature by 2-3 degrees Celsius and sea level by one meter in Vietnam by the year 2100.
In addition to the loss of nearly half the Mekong Delta, experts predict warn that climate change could permanently reclaim 11 percent of the Red River Delta and 20 percent of Ho Chi Minh City.
Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank Country Director to Vietnam, stressed the importance of specific concrete actions, including strengthening coordination among local agencies and authorities in the Mekong Delta.
 

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