As coastal erosion continues to affect thousands of lives in Vietnam's southernmost province, authorities are taking steps to adapt to climate change before the damage reaches irreversible levels.
“I can't buy freshwater because there's not enough available, and even when I have money, it's too expensive. When I return dirty from work, I just jump into my shrimp breeding pond, which contains seawater,” says Tran Van Ut, a farmer in the southernmost province of Ca Mau.
A few years ago, seawater was located about 100 to 200 metres from Ut's house in the coastal commune of Dat Mui in Ngoc Hien District.
"But now, the seawater is just 10 to 15 metres away and has already entered my underground well," he says.
Ut is one of thousands of residents in the area whose farms have been affected by coastal erosion and saline intrusion due to the effects of climate change.
|Due to the impact of climate change, riverbank and coastal erosion in Ca Mau Province has increased in recent years. VNS Photo Van Chau|
In many rural areas in Ca Mau, rainfall and underground water are the primary sources of freshwater, but as many as 20,000 households in the province lack access to freshwater.
Of that figure, about 13,500 households have no connection to the national water supply system or lack access to underground water, according to the provincial People’s Committee.
Because of climate change, riverbank and coastal erosion has worsened in recent years, according to the province's Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Search and Rescue.
Since 2005, the Mekong Delta has seen yearly erosion of about 300 hectares, according to reports. Between 2010 and 2015, the region sank between five and 10 centimetres over most of its area.
Without extreme measures to alleviate subsidence, the Mekong Delta could cease to exist in 100 years, warn experts.
|As many as 20,000 households in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau lack water because of climate change. VNS Photo Van Chau|
Ca Mau Province is listed as one of the most vulnerable localities in the delta to climate change.
According to a climate change scenario, if the sea level rises by 25cm, about 85.4 per cent (or 4,700sq.m) of the total natural area of the province will be inundated, and about 200,000 households will be displaced by 2040.
Last year, 118 cases of riverbank and coastal erosion as well as nine tidal waves caused serious damage to property and people's livelihoods, says Tran Trung Nghia of the People's Committee.
In vulnerable areas, thousands of households continue to face danger from landslides, which have been more frequent since 2006.
The risk of landslides is high at 27 sites of riverbank erosion with a total length of 38 kilometres.
In eastern coastal areas, more than 1,000 households need to be relocated to protect their lives and property.
To resolve the problem, the province has petitioned the Government for funds for coastal erosion-prevention projects and for additional capital to upgrade dykes in the western and eastern coastal areas.
Both coasts have been seriously affected by climate change, with erosion of 30m-50m every year on the eastern coast as existing dykes have not offered sufficient protection.
The erosion rate of riverbanks in Ca Mau has been usually 0.3-0.5m per year since 2017, according to the report of the province's People's Committee.
Erosion has also damaged housing and transport infrastructure. In response, the province is focusing on the most urgent projects and landslide prevention at riverbanks and beaches.
So far, the province has invested VND700 billion (US$30.2 million) in projects to adapt to erosion, saline intrusion and drought.
One such embankment project to protect the eastern coast in districts Rach Goc and Vam Xoay is being urgently deployed, with total investment of more than VND135 billion ($5.9 million) and completion expected by the end of the year.
Authorities have also created a protective mudflat in and partly around embankments in the eastern Nam Can and Ngoc Hien districts.
Ca Mau Province’s western and eastern coastal areas are seriously affected by climate change. VNS Photo Van Chau
In addition, hundreds of hectares of mangrove forest have been restored, and many dykes have been built or upgraded.
However, both the western coastal areas in U Minh, Tran Van Thoi and Phu Tan districts and eastern coastal areas in Dam Doi, Nam Can and Ngoc Hien districts face more than 100km of eroded areas that threaten the foundation of dykes and increase the risk of dam breaches.
The province is also evacuating households that are at risk of being affected by climate change.
From now through 2020, for example, new housing will be built in 21 residential areas for 5,000 people who will be relocated, with approved funds of about VND481billion ($20.75 million), according to the People’s Committee.
Over the past 10 years, the province has lost more than 8,800ha of coastal forests, with an annual average loss of 800ha.
Besides the embankment projects on the eastern coast of Rach Goc and Vam Xoay areas, the province is planting protective forests near river mouths and coastal forests.
|Erosion is worsening in coastal areas near Rach Goc seaport in Ca Mau Province’s Ngoc Hien District. VNS Photo Van Chau|
In the past decade, Ca Mau has lost 300-400ha of protective forests per year because of human causes, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Division for Natural Disaster Prevention.
The Ca Mau Forest Rangers Department has launched campaigns to educate residents about the value of protective forests and has increased forest patrols. It has also begun to penalise people who flout forest protection laws.
In July, a mangrove afforestation campaign in several provinces in the Mekong Delta, including Ca Mau, was launched by the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the Ca Mau People’s Committee.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Hoang Hiep said at the launch ceremony that the programme was "an opportunity for officials and residents in coastal provinces to understand the benefits brought by mangrove forests".
|Ca Mau Province is planting protective forests near river mouths and coastal areas. VNS Photo Van Chau|
New farming models
Besides investments in technical infrastructure and afforestation, Ca Mau authorities have also called on farmers to restructure agriculture by establishing specialised farming areas for key agricultural products, and by growing other crops in ineffective rice fields or rotating rice with other crops in the same field.
Under the shrimp-rice farming model, for example, farmers breed shrimp in the dry season and grow rice in the rainy season in the same field.
The model, which protects the environment because fewer chemicals are used, produces a rice yield of 4-5 tonnes per hectare a crop and 300-370kg of shrimp per hectare a crop, offering farmers profits 2-4 times higher than rice farming alone, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
As the country’s largest shrimp producer, Ca Mau plans to expand the sustainable farming models. A super-intensive shrimp model, for example, that breeds up to 250 shrimp per square metre, five times higher than the traditional number, offers a yield of 40-50 tonnes per ha per crop and a success rate of more than 85 per cent, according to Nguyen Van Trung of the department.
Many households and companies have adopted the super-intensive model that use advanced technologies, including biofloc technology and biogas ponds, to treat waste.
|Farmer Tran Van Binh breeds shrimp under a super-intensive farming model in Ca Mau Province’s Nam Can District. VNS Photo Van Chau|
All of these new farming models have brought total profits of VND60-70 million (US$2,590 – $3,000) per hectare a year to farmers. Natural food like algae and weeds are used to feed shrimp, which helps to prevent pollution.
In addition, breeding giant river prawns and growing rice in the same field during the rainy season in Thoi Binh District have improved farmers’ incomes. Nguyen Hoang Lam, head of the district’s Agriculture and Rural Development Division, says the district has the potential to breed black-tiger shrimp in the dry season.
Besides expanding new farming models, the province is improving management of the shrimp farm environment to ensure disease prevention and the quality of the breeding stock.
Farmers will also be taught advanced techniques to meet VietGAP, global GAP and Aquaculture Stewardship Council standards.
In addition, the province has been developing new environmental protection policies and rolling out incentives to attract investment in sustainable shrimp farming models as well as infrastructure such as electricity and irrigation networks. – VNS
By Van Chau
Ca Mau Province authorities has asked the Government for more than VND622 billion (US$27 million) to finance 12 projects for relocating people from areas eroded by the sea and rivers.
A section of a sea dyke on the western coast of the southernmost province of Ca Mau is at high risk of breaching due to raging waves over a couple of days.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has begun inspections of erosion sites on riverbanks and coastal sites in Ca Mau Province.