The MekongDelta should make efforts to control floods that are unseasonably early or too powerful to minimise damage and take advantage of the phenomenon for economic development, experts have said.

The delta's annual flooding along the Mekong River is conforming less and less to norm because of the impact of climate change, construction of hydropower plants upstream, the delta's rapid urbanisation, and the building of dykes to enable a third rice crop (autumn-winter).

Speaking at a seminar held in An Giangprovince on August 22, Luong Quang Xo, Deputy Head of the Southern Institute for Water Resources Planning, said flood control plans should include several concurrent measures.

The measures must include using advanced technologies to control and warn about floods, restructuring cultivation schedules, increasing people's awareness about living with floods, promoting the benefits of the flooding, and limiting losses, he said.

Tang DucThang, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Academy for Water Resources, said flood control measures should not have any impact on the natural flow of rivers to avoid erosion and other effects.

There should be space for the floods because they also bring fertile silt, wash alum and salt from the soil, and balance the delta's biodiversity, he pointed out.

Flood control plans should be carefully assessed for effectiveness, especially the building of dykes to protect the autumn-winter rice crop since they are expensive to build, he said.

Besides, the building of dykes has increased the pressure in the rivers both upstream and downstream, he said.

At the seminar, the Southern Institute for Water Resources Planning presented two scenarios for flood control plans in the delta for this decade.

Xo said the first of them was more feasible.

It envisages a cost of 44.5 trillionVND (2.1 billion USD) to build or upgrade projects to protect agriculture, infrastructure, and residents' safety.

The area under summer-winter rice in deeply flooded areas in An Giang, Dong Thap, and Long An will be 149,000ha.

If the Government approves this plan, 13 dykes will be built in Vinh Long province and Can Tho city, works along the coast will be completed, and flood drainage canals linking the Hau River with the sea will be dredged and upgraded in 2015-20, according to the Irrigation Department.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hoang Van Thang said since flood-control plans involve many sectors, research groups should re-evaluate those that have already been implemented.

Authorities' and local people's awareness of the benefits of floods needs to improve to harness them, he said.

In the delta, 23,678km of dykes have been built to protect more than 530,000ha of rice fields.

The flood season, which normally begins in August, inundates fields to a depth of 0.5-4 metres for three to six months.-VNA