Mekong Delta farmers grapple with worst saline intrusion hinh anh 1A rice field in Lich Hoi Thuong commune of Soc Trang province dies of saltwater intrusion (Photo: VNA)

Can Tho (VNA) – Mekong Delta farmers are struggling with the worst water shortages and saltwater intrusion in nearly a century.

The Mekong Delta has nearly 4 million hectares of farmland, accounting for almost 30 percent of Vietnam’s total farmland area, with over 50 percent under rice.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said that due to the impacts of El Nino, the rainy season (usually from May to October) came late and ended early in 2015. Meanwhile, the water levels of the upper Mekong River are declining quickly and have reached the lowest level in nine decades, leading to serious water shortages during the dry season (usually from November to April).

Thach Son, a farmer in Lich Hoi Thuong commune of Soc Trang province, said his family has more than 5,000 sq.m. of rice and it was all damaged by saltwater.

He doesn’t know what to do now, as his three children already went to Ho Chi Minh City to earn their living, while he and his wife have to take care of two small grandchildren and deal with several tens of millions of VND that he owes seed and fertilizer sellers.

Du Minh Tam, an agriculture official of Lich Hoi Thuong, said 816.4 hectares of the commune’s 1,170 hectares of rice were lost. Local families have suffered from harvest losses caused by saltwater encroachment.

He cited Tran Ut Quo in Soc Leo hamlet as an example. Quo had 4,000 sq.m. of farmland and leased another 4,000 sq.m. for rice cultivation. However, all of the rice died, and the farmer left for Binh Duong province to make money about a month ago.

Tam noted that the communal authorities have handled a number of job applications of local residents who wanted to seek employment in Binh Duong and HCM City. Most people in Lich Hoi Thuong now are the elderly and children.

Initial statistics show that over one-third of the commune’s 1,700 families need assistance, and the number of impoverished households, 98 at present, is likely to increase sharply in the near future, the official added.

In Hau Giang province, Tran Thi No – a resident in Tu hamlet of Vinh Thuan Tay commune – is worried about rainwater stored during the rainy season for daily use, as there are only about 20 litres left.

She said in previous years the stored rainwater ran out in March, adding that she almost ran out of water in January this year. Her family may have to use alkaline or saline water instead as this year’s rainy season is forecast to come late.

According to the Vietnam Academy for Water Resources, saltwater will encroach deep into most of the Mekong Delta in the 2015-2016 dry season. Many areas that have never experienced saline intrusion, such as Vinh Long province and Chau Thanh district and Nga Bay township of Hau Giang province, will experience the phenomenon.

About half of the farmland in Hau Giang and Kien Giang provinces is predicted to be ruined by saltwater, which will impact all farmland in Ca Mau, Bac Lieu and Soc Trang provinces.

In Long An province’s Tan An city in particular, saltwater with salinity of up to 10 – 12 grammes per litre is likely to enter 85km deep into the mainland in May if there is a lack of rain and timely prevention measures, the academy predicted.-VNA