"I have lived here for some decades, this is the first time I see the canal has dried to the bottom" - A resident in Go Cong Tay said.
The Covid-19 virus is not the only crisis in Vietnam this year. The drought 2020 has broken all records of previous drought seasons including the big drought in 2016. Saline water came earlier, with less rainfall and the lower amount of water from the upper Mekong placed the Mekong Delta in a serious situation of fresh water shortage, affected to production and daily life of the people.
Picture to the right: A local person is picking vegetables at the bottom of the dried canal in Go Cong Tay
There are different reasons for the current drought. First and foremost, the rainfall is 84% lower than the average for many years. Also, because of dams, the amount of water flowing in the Mekong River from China has decreased, reducing the amount of water flowing into the Mekong Delta by 19% compared to February 2016. Thirdly, because of the massive groundwater exploitation the saline water from the sea went deeply into the inland. In addition, due to low floods and low sediment load in the Mekong, the estuary areas have been eroded more deeply, creating conditions for rising salinity. The average tidal water level in the Mekong Delta coastal area also tends to be higher before due to Climate Change and higher sealevel.
The impacts are bigger than in 2016.
The result of this is that salty water has entered up to 130 km from the sea into the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta. Five of the 12 provinces has declared an emergency situation (Kien Giang, Ben Tre, Tien Giang, Ca Mau and Long) and it is affecting the freshwater supplies of many million people.
Comparition between dry season 2016 and 20202
Despite the experience learned in 2016 and many places actively taking precautions, the damage from the drought still occurred. The loss is significant. Many thousand hectars of rice crop has been damaged by the salty water. In Ben Tre more than 20,000 hectares of fruit trees are placed in a "red alert" situation where irrigation water is lacking. Many fruit gardens have died branches, dried leaves, fallen fruits due to long periods of no water for irrigation.
Public water intake point in Tan Phu Dong
Tien Giang, a province where Mission Alliance is working, is one of the localities most affected by saline intrusion. Even in the freshwater area of Go Cong district, rice is suffering because there is no fresh water and the risk of reducing productivity is very high. Saline water has intrusted as far as Cai Be district, which is located upstream of the Tien River. In Cai Lay district, many durian trees have withered and fallen. The shortage of fresh water has been serious, people have to rent a car to travel far to get fresh water, resulting in water prices up to 300,000 VND / m3 (up from 5-10 times higher than before). In some areas government is providing emergency drinking water supplies.
Dried canals for lemon grass in Tan Phu Dong