More than 377,000 people in the Mekong Delta face a fresh-water shortage because of saline water intrusion in the area as a result of a long and severe drought, according to the National Centre for Rural Clean Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation.

The price for fresh clean water has soared. In Kien Giang, Ben Tre and Ca Mau provinces, people have been buying clean water for 25,000-60,000 VND (1.2-2.9 USD) a cubic metre, far higher than the normal price of 7,000-10,000 VND.

Vo Thi Thong, 47, from Hon Dat district's Binh Son commune in Kien Giang, said the bore wells of hundreds of households had been affected by saline water intrusion and acidic soil.

To have potable water, locals have to travel about 10km to the commune's centre to buy clean water, she said.

Saline water intrusion and drought in the delta have affected agricultural production, with salt water concentration increasing to 0.9 percent in several areas in Hau Giang province, Nguyen Van Dong, director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said.

In Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Ca Mau and Bac Lieu provinces, the water is more saline than last year, officials said.

In Ca Mau province, the salt concentration reached 3 percent. Rice will die when the salt concentration in fields becomes higher than this level.

About 100,000ha of farmland in the delta have been affected by saline water intrusion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This intrusion occurred one month earlier than in the past, and entered 40-50 km deep into river mouths.

In some areas in Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Ben Tre, Tien Giang and Long An provinces, saline water has intruded 50-60km into rivers.

Since early February, strong winds combined with drought have created favourable conditions for deeper saline water intrusion.

Steps have been taken to provide fresh water to farms.

Hau Giang and Vinh Long provinces have dredged and upgraded dozens of canals to supply irrigation water for 38,000ha of rice and fruit in affected areas.

Tien Giang province has built 173 temporary dams to prevent saline water intrusion and set up 173 sites to pump water into fields.

And Kien Giang province has closed sluice gates along sea at Rach Gia - Ba Hon areas to keep fresh water.

Nguyen Huynh Trung, deputy head of the Kien Giang Irrigation Sub-department, said the water levels of rivers would decline as there would be little rain during the dry season.

"Saline water intrusion will likely continue to enter deeper inland with a higher concentration of salt," he said.-VNA