Upgrading the country’s irrigation system to improve its efficiency to 80 percent will require around 20 trillion VND (nearly 1 billion USD), under a plan drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The plan seeks to increase the total irrigated areas by 5 percent by 2020 and reduce electricity and water use per hectare by 10 percent.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Hoang Van Thang told a recent meeting that though the country gets a lot of rainfall, a widespread irrigation system is needed because of the uneven distribution of rainwater in terms of location and time.

The country has 904 large to medium-sized irrigation works that can provide water for 200 ha of fields or more. Together they irrigate 5.5 million ha and keep out saltwater from 0.87 million ha.

There are also more than 8,000 other facilities like weirs, sluice gates, and pumping stations.

There are 6,831 dams of various kinds with a combined capacity of 50 billion cu. m. of water. They not only provide water for 80,000ha of lands and people’s daily use, but also help generate electricity.

The largest ones include Hoa Binh, Thac Ba, Son La, Na Hang, Nui Coc, Cam Son, Cua Dai, Song Muc, Ban Ve, Ke Go and Dau Tieng.

But many of the facilities have seriously deteriorated, badly effecting water supply, according to Nguyen Duy Hien, deputy director of the General Irrigation and Water Management Office.

Many pumps were installed in the 1960s, and their efficiency has been down to just 70-75 percent now, he said, pointing out that many reservoirs were 30 to 40 years old.

In addition, many of the works have been affected by illegal encroachment by people and severe pollution due to waste water discharged by industrial parks, farms, and residential areas, he said.

Consequently, many irrigation works operate at only 60-65 percent of capacity, some at a mere 30 percent, he said. Their reduced efficiency has also increased the cost of operating because of the great amounts of water and electricity wasted.

The plan will include some drastic measures to resolve all these problems, Thang added.-VNA