Vietnam's Mekong Delta pays huge ecological toll for agricultural boom

Thanh Nien News

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Too much fishing has threatened aquatic resources in the Mekong River in Vietnam while groundwater exploitation has eroded river banks. Photo credit: TBKTSG Too much fishing has threatened aquatic resources in the Mekong River in Vietnam while groundwater exploitation has eroded river banks. Photo credit: TBKTSG

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Cultivation and fishing activities have prospered throughout the Mekong River basin at great cost to the ecology, government officials and experts said at an annual forum on Saturday.
Participants from the Mekong Delta said that natural resources and aquatic biodiversity are declining at alarming levels due to agricultural production, news website Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon (Saigon Times) Online reported.
 Climate change is only making matters worse, the news site reported.
Nguyen Thanh Nguyen, vice chairman of Long An Province, said that the province's annual rice yields has surged ten-fold since the late 1970s to more three million tons--at the expense of the entire ecosystem.
Nguyen said the Dong Thap Muoi, a nearly 700,000-hectare (280,000-acre) wetland that's split between two provinces, has been entirely converted to wet rice paddies.
Shrimp farms have destroyed the coastal brackish water ecology in the area, he said.
Nguyen Van Nghia from the water resource department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which co-organized the forum with Long An's provincial authorities, said the Mekong's surface current in Vietnam have strongly declined in recent years.
He blamed upstream hydropower dams and the effects of climate change.
He said dams, flood-prevention dikes, salinization, and rampant over-fishing are destroying natural aquatic communities.
Nghia said the exploitation of groundwater, which has dropped 0.2-0.4 meter a year and more than 0.9 meter in some places, has brought harsher droughts and salinization to the delta, as well as coastline and riverside erosion.
Vice Minister of natural resources and environment Bui Cach Tuyen said there should be widespread efforts to raise public awareness about the meaning and importance of sustainability.
He said development projects in the area need to include efforts to protect the natural environment.
The forum was first held in 2008 and has continued with technical and financial support from the international environmental group WWF.

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