Farmers at many cassava and sugarcane fields in Tay Ninh Province are overworking their water pumps these days to save their crops.
In many places, trees have turned brown amid severe weather conditions that are unlikely to let up.
Tay Ninh is heating up in the worst drought of the decade, so as several provinces to the north of Ho Chi Minh City and those in the Central Highlands, officials said.
Dang Van Dung, a farmer in Tay Ninh, said this might even be the worst in several decades.
“I’ve lived here for more than 50 years and it’s never been so hot,” Dung said as he released a hard breath under the baking sun.
Hoang Dinh Long, director of a forest management board in Dong Nai Province, said this year's dry season came around two months earlier than usual and it has hit Vietnam really hard.
He said trees that survived previous drought periods have died this year. “That’s how bad it is.”
A number of sheep and cows at farms in Ninh Thuan Province have also dropped dead due to the lack of food and water.
Phan Quang Thuu, deputy director of the province’s agriculture department, said 20 water reservoirs in the province have hit perilously low levels, around 10 percent of their designed capacity.
The National Hydrometeorological Forecasting Center said Ninh Thuan will not have rain for another five months, which means there will not be enough water for the summer-fall crop and more than 10,000 hectares of rice fields will be rendered useless.
Where water is gold
In the neighboring Binh Thuan Province, people are relying on water from wells they dug up recently.
65-year-old Le Thi Kien said she and three other families share a well but they have almost depleted it and now the water near the bottom is not very clean.
“We know the water is not very safe, but it's okay. I’ve never seen such a bad drought.”
Nguyen Van Sang, a commune officer, said the water is barely enough for cooking and washing.
If they want more water, they have to buy from a town 15 kilometers away at around VND50,000 a cubic meter, nearly ten times the official prices.
It’s a sellers’ market these days. At least two water plants in the province have stopped working as their supplying streams dried out.
In the Central Highlands provinces of Lam Dong and Dak Lak, the water level at all streams and reservoirs has fallen below last year’s lowest point.
Coffee farmers are afraid that tens of thousands of hectares will die.
Digging deep for water is the only way to partly deal with the dire solution in the drought-htt provinces.
Khanh Hoa Province, which includes the famous resort town Nha Trang, has approved a fund of VND25 billion, or nearly US$1 million, to help locals dig wells and switch to new crops that can survive the lack of water.
Dak Lak and Binh Thuan said they will ask state-run Electricity of Vietnam to release water from hydropower dams in the area to alleviate the problem.