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Mekong Delta struggling with drought, salinity

( 23-03-2016 - 10:18 AM ) - Lượt xem: 657

CAN THO - Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has called on provinces in the Mekong Delta to focus on dealing with severe drought and saltwater intrusion that have taken a heavy toll on agriculture in the region.

The provinces need to actively do whatever it takes to cushion damage caused by drought and salinity for agriculture and ensure sufficient clean water supply for local residents as drought and salinity are forecast to worsen in the coming months, Dung told a meeting in Can Tho City on March 7 with leaders of the provinces in the region.

The measures include construction of urgent works that help ease the effect of drought and seawater intrusion on the Mekong Delta, heard the meeting on preventive measures against the calamity in the Mekong Delta region.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat told the meeting that drought and seawater intrusion have wreaked havoc on 139,000 hectares of the winter-spring rice crop in the region, 34,000 hectares higher than in mid-February. About 86,000 hectares of the total is 70% damaged.

Meanwhile, Party chief of Ben Tre Province Vo Thanh Hao said seawater has hit not only rice fields but also 1,225 hectares of orchards in the province with total losses estimated at VND200 billion (US$8.97 million).

Phat said farmers have harvested 40% of more than 1.5 million hectares of the winter-spring rice crop in the region and forecast the calamity would strike an additional 46,000 hectares of rice in the coming months.

As drought and salinity are forecast to last until June and saltwater would seep into land, PM Dung said 500,000 hectares, or 30% of the rice farming area, would not be sown with paddy grains as usual in the summer-autumn crop in the region like in previous years.

Therefore, some one million households with five million people in the region will likely be affected by lower rice output, according to PM Dung.

As for fresh water supply, he said saltwater has affected river mouths and coastal areas of Ca Mau, Kien Giang, Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Hau Giang, Long An, Tien Giang and Bac Lieu, affecting 155,000 households with around 575,000 people.

In the situation, Dung said the Government approved the solutions proposed by local authorities. The solutions include construction of seawater control works for emergency cases as well as fresh water reservoirs and channels for local residents.

The ministries of finance and planning-investment and relevant agencies are told to quickly review urgent works so that their construction can commence soon with State financing.

The State Bank of Vietnam should tell commercial banks to freeze and reschedule debts for farming households hit by drought and salinity, and at the same time provide loans for them to resume production.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung suggested provinces in the Mekong Delta to draw up long-term plans to adapt to drought and salinity, and ask the Government to reserve more funding for the region.

“Local authorities should review the already-approved projects and add urgent projects for investment,” the deputy minister said.

He proposed the Government prioritize more disbursements of official development assistance (ODA) loans for the Mekong Delta region in the coming years.

The agriculture ministry requested the Government set aside VND10.55 trillion for drought and salinity control in the long term. The amount includes VND623 billion for cushioning impact of drought and salinity, VND215 billion for resuming production, VND650 billion for building dykes to prevent saltwater intrusion and supplying fresh water, over VND1 trillion for developing drought and saltwater control works in 2016-2020, and VND8 trillion for carrying out projects with inter-regional effect in the next five years.

At the meeting, the Prime Minister approved allocating VND524 billion to 39 localities hard hit by drought and salinity nationwide, including around VD140 billion for the affected Mekong Delta provinces.

Six Mekong Delta provinces declare state of calamity

At least six out of 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta have declared a state of calamity as drought and salinity are taking their toll on the agricultural sector and local residents. The six are Tien Giang, Long An, Ben Tre, Kien Giang, Soc Trang, and Ca Mau.

As of March 2, drought and saltwater intrusion have hit 49,000 hectares of rice in Kien Giang Province, affecting over 18,000 farming households, up 15,000 hectares and 4,000 households over month ago, heard a meeting of Kien Giang Province’s agricultural sector last week.

Around 14,000 hectares of the 2015-2016 winter-spring rice crop in Ben Tre Province had been damaged by the end of last month, with Ba Tri District bearing the brunt of the damage.

According to the Ca Mau Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the province had had over 49,000 hectares of rice damaged by drought and seawater as of late last month, including 25,000 hectares of rice grown in the shrimp farming area.

Earlier, the Mekong Delta provinces proposed the Government provide more than VND1 trillion (US$44.9 million) for them to overcome the consequences of the calamity, with VND50 billion sought for Long An, VND83 billion for Tien Giang, VND157 billion for Ben Tre, VND70 billion for Tra Vinh, VND219 billion for Soc Trang, VND170 billion for Bac Lieu, VND102 billion for Kien Giang, and VND152 billion for Hau Giang.

 

Trung Chanh