Saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta might reduce between late March and June this year, according to Phung Tien Dung, head of the Hydrological Forecasting Department for the Central, Central Highlands and Southern region.
Workers dredge a canal to prevent saltwater intrusion and store freshwater in Hau Giang Province’s Vi Thuy District.
Dung recently said the flow of the Mekong River to the Mekong Delta in February is forecast to be equivalent to the average of many years and 2016.
The water level at Cambodia’s great lake Tonle Sap is low so the ability to discharge much water for the delta is not high.
From mid-March this year, the flow of water to Kratie's (a location in Cambodia) upper basin will increase due to the discharge of reservoirs in line with recent years.
Earlier, the centre forecast that saltwater intrusion will be more serious in 2020 than in previous years.
Saline intrusion on some rivers at certain times might be as severe as in the 2015-2016 dry season which caused VND15 trillion (US$646 million) of damage to the delta.
The peak time for saline intrusion on the Mekong River may occur between January and February and in March this year with Vam Co and Cai Lon rivers are the exception.
Dung also warned that the prolonged lack of rain associated with the exploitation of water resources in the basin would make drought, water shortage and saltwater intrusion worse than in the historic 2015-2016 dry season.
Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert on the Mekong Delta’s ecology, agreed.
“With the low water level of the Mekong River this year, the dry season after Tet holiday, with the peak between March and April this year, could be as harsh as predicted,” he said.
Early warnings and measures to prevent possible damage were important, Thien said.
He suggested agencies call on local residents to store freshwater to ensure enough water for daily use.
Saltwater intrusion has occurred on a large scale in Mekong Delta provinces, coming sooner than previous years.
Saltwater from the sea has entered 60-70 kilometres deep into the Co Chien and Hau rivers. The salinity intrusion is expected to reach 110km at peak time in some places.
According to reports from Mekong Delta provinces, about 200,000 hectares of winter-spring crops will be affected. Of these, 90,000 hectares will be badly hit.
Nguyen Van Tan, director of Kien Giang Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said for coastal provinces, saltwater intrusion normally begins after Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, causing damage to agricultural production.
The affected areas would spread from Rach Gia to Ha Tien City, areas along Cai Lon and Cai Be rivers and U Minh Thuong district.
Villages in coastal areas including An Bien, An Minh and Kien Hai districts will face a water shortage.
Provincial authorities have implemented several projects to mitigate the impacts, including upgrading irrigation projects and building dams to keep out saltwater intrusion.
Similar measures have been taken in An Giang Province.
In addition to asking farmers to restructure rice cultivation, local authorities have been told to share water and use water in canals to save rice and other crops. — VNS
Saltwater intrusion has occurred on a large scale in the Mekong Delta, forcing local authorities to take measures to protect agricultural production and ensure water supply for household use.
The Mekong Delta plans to grow this year’s winter – spring rice crop early since drought and saltwater intrusion are forecast to be severe in the dry season starting at the end of this year.