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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        28  February 2011

Brackish water arrives early in Mekong Delta

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Salt water intrusion in coastal provinces in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta has occurred earlier this year than previous years, affecting thousands of hectares of rice.

Salt water intrusion had already penetrated 30 kilometers inland in Ben Tre Province by late last month, Nguyen Van Hanh, director of Ben Tre Province's Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre, said.

"Salt water intrusion this year has occurred earlier and has a higher saline content compared to the same period last year, meaning the effects could be worse," Hanh said.

Tra Vinh Province‘s Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre forecast that with the current low water levels at river mouths, sea water would penetrate 60 kilometers inland in Tra Vinh Province this year, directly affecting Duyen Hai, Cau Ngang and Tra Cu districts.

More than 1,700 hectares of rice fields in Tra Cu and Cau Ngang districts have been damaged because the fields are affected by salt water, which has a saline content of 4.9 gramme per litre, according to the Tra Vinh Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Rice fields along the Quan Lo – Phung Hiep Canal, which runs through Soc Trang and Bac Lieu provinces, are also drying up, as the canal is increasingly saline.

Nearly 9,000ha of winter-spring rice crop in My Quoi, My Binh and Vinh Bien communes in Soc Trang Province's Nga Nam District could be totally ruined because of the impact of the saltwater.

In Soc Trang, Ngo Thi Duc Hanh of the provincial Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre, said the salt water intrusion this year was two weeks earlier than last year.

The saline content at the mouth of Dai Ngai River, a tributary of the Hau River, has reached 6.3 gramme per litre compared to 3 gramme per litre in the same period of last year, Hanh said. In Tien Giang Province, salt water has affected the entire Tan Phu Dong Island District over the last month.

Le Van Tot, a resident in Ca Thu Hamlet in Tan Phu Dong's Phu Thanh Commune, also said the salt water came early this year so every one's hands were tied coping with it.

"Families that live among rice fields are isolated. They have to filter the water from nearby canals and ponds for their daily use," Tot said.

Doan Van Tho, chairman of the Tan Phu Dong District People's Committee, said to mitigate the impact of salt water intrusion, his district has dug a 6-ha dam in Tan Thoi Commune to store fresh water for 40,000 people in the district.

At least 200,000 people in the eastern part of Tien Giang Province will be without enough fresh water during this year's dry season, according to the provincial People's Committee.

The People's Committee has instructed local authorities to install fresh water pipes to communities that haven't got them.

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