The central region is likely to face a severe drought this year and regional localities have been carrying out several measures to mitigate the impact.

Drought will likely occur in the region at the end of the winter-spring crop and at the beginning of the summer-autumn crop, according to provincial centres for hydro-meteorological forecasting.

El Nino is expected to appear early and continue in the first months of this year with an average intensity compared to the past 50 years, said Nham Xuan Sy, director of the Quang Ngai Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

"Drought for the 2014-15 crop period will be severe," Sy was quoted as saying by Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.

In Quang Nam province, the level of the Vu Gia River in Dai Loc district has been low and crop fields along the river are dry due to the heat.

Dang Thi Muoi, who grows beans in Dai Loc's Dai Quang commune, said farmers along the river are worrying about water shortage.

"If there is more heat and the river level is lower, my crops will be destroyed," she said.

Huynh Tan Duc, director of the Quang Nam Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said last year's rainfall was low, and the water of the province's large- and medium-size reservoirs were only at average level compared to normal years.

The stored water could only meet the water demand of the winter-spring crop, he said, adding that the summer-autumn crop would face water shortage.

Early this year, the Quang Nam Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has instructed localities and relevant agencies to carry out drought control measures, including using water thriftily and switching to growing crops that need less water.

Today, the department will build dams at river mouths to store water and prevent salinity intrusion.

In Quang Ngai province, rice farmers along the Tra Khuc River in Son Ha district have switched to grow cash crops like corn and green beans because they were afraid of an irrigation water shortage.

Nguyen Mau Van, deputy director of the Quang Ngai Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the department has taken measures to prevent drought by calling on local people to use water economically and by dredging canals and repairing water pumps.

The department has strictly monitored the weather to change the crop planting structure, he said.

If there is no rain and heat continues, the province's reservoirs will not have water by the end of the winter-spring crop, Van said.

The department has petitioned the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to support the province 25 billion VND (1.2 million USD) to implement measures to ensure water supply for production and household use, he said.

In Thua Thien – Hue and Quang Tri provinces, farmers have begun dredging canals to take water into newly sowed rice fields.

Nguyen Van Bai, director of the Quang Tri Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said to carry out the change of crop structure, the province will organise classes on planting cash crops on rice fields.

The province will also raise people's awareness about drought and the necessity of changing crop structure, he said.

The total expense for the plan is about 14 billion VND (660,000 USD).

The Thua Thien – Hue People's Committee has also decided to use 17 billion VND (800,000 USD) to support localities to dredge and upgrade rivers, canals, reservoirs and dams.-VNA