Vietnam tackles drought impacts

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Nearly two months into the rainy season, the long-term effects of the drought have spurred the government to send rice and aid to the hardest-hit provinces.

On Tuesday (August 10), Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung instructed the Ministry of Finance to allocate 7,100 tons of stored rice for several cities and provinces in need.

The support was announced six days after an international stakeholders meeting held in Hanoi to discuss the shortages.

The meeting, held August 4, was convened to raise awareness about the drought's impacts and to discuss several mitigation strategies. Participants in the event included representatives from the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Coordination Group for Natural Disasters and Emergencies and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

"With virtually no rainfall for seven months since September 2009, drought has affected the whole of Vietnam from the northern mountainous areas to the southern Mekong River Delta," the United Nations said in a statement issued Tuesday.

"Consequently, fires have burned forests throughout the country and salt water intrusion in the Mekong River Delta area has penetrated up to more than 70 km from the coastline. The impact is widespread and is affecting all sectors of the Vietnamese economy and society, including agriculture, energy, irrigation, water supply, fishery and food production," the statement said.

By July 2010, 87,158 hectares of rice, or 21.4 percent of the then-planted total area, had been affected by drought, the UN said.

Experts at the meeting floated the ideas of improved reservoir management, upgrading irrigation systems, and training farmers in growing drought-resistant crops and efficient farming and drought prevention techniques. They also urged further research on salt water intrusion into inland rivers and freshwater rice paddies.

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