US$1.5 billion needed for drought and salinity controls
Vietnam will need VND34 trillion (US$1.5 billion) to deal with the heavy damage caused by drought and saltwater intrusion, according to the Department of Crop Production.
Ma Quang Chung, director of the department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told the Daily last week that the ministry had put forward a number of solutions, including salinity prevention and water storage, with a total cost of VND34 trillion.
In the short term, priority will be to ensure sufficient water supply for people’s daily use and production, Chung said.
He said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment should provide guidelines for people to dig water wells without affecting the environment and that heavy-duty water pumps should be installed at reservoirs to supply water for drought-hit areas.
Chung said the agriculture ministry has worked out a cultivation process for rice and fruit in saltwater-affected areas in the Mekong Delta. The ministry has also introduced salt-resistant crops which can withstand salinity rates of 5-7‰.
The Institute of Water Resources Planning is tasked with making a salinity map to plan suitable crops for each area.
In the long term, when a salinity control plan which the Department of Crop Production is preparing is ready, the ministry would introduce crop cultivation solutions.
Rice is the mainstay of the Mekong Delta, so research should be done to find new varieties which are more salt-resistant, Chung said. The department is coordinating with the Mekong Delta Rice Institute and research institutes in the northern region to research such varieties.
In those areas frequently hit by saltwater, shrimp farming or a combination of shrimp and rice farming would be a way out.
According to Chung, of 1.5 million hectares of rice sowed in the winter-spring crop in the delta, 150,000 hectares has been hit by drought. The saltwater intrusion situation is forecast to peak in mid-April. The department estimated more than one million tons of rice could be damaged by saltwater.