PM requests sufficient water supply in drought-hit Mekong Delta hinh anh 1Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc examines impact of drought and saltwater intrusion at An Hiep sluice in Chau Thanh district, Ben Tre province, on March 8 (Photo: VNA)

Ben Tre (VNA) – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has pointed out an urgent need to ensure standardised drinking water for residents in the Mekong Delta while minimising socio-economic impact caused by drought there.

Saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta, the largest agricultural production hub of Vietnam, has appeared sooner and become more severe than in the 2015-2016 dry season, when historic drought and saline intrusion were recorded, and the phenomenon is predicted to remain serious for the rest of this dry season, thus greatly affecting agricultural production and people’s life.

Facing that fact, the Cabinet leader made a fact-finding tour of Ben Tre province and had a working session with officials of some ministries and the region’s provinces of Ben Tre, Tien Giang, Long An, Kien Giang and Ca Mau on March 8.

At the meeting, PM Phuc stressed the importance of the Government’s Resolution 120/CP on sustainably developing the Mekong Delta in adaptation to climate change.

He noted that at the meeting in Tien Giang last September, the Government ordered localities in the region to begin the winter-spring crop one month ahead of schedule and change the crop structure in drought-hit areas. As a result, the damaged rice area is about 39,000ha, equivalent to only 9.6 percent from 2016, when more 405,000ha of rice were destroyed by drought and saltwater intrusion.

This is an important success amid serious impact of climate change in the region in the recent past, he said.

However, as drought and saltwater intrusion this year is forecast to be even more severe than in 2016, water scarcity will affect locals’ daily life and agriculture. Therefore, ministries, sectors and localities need to focus on some short- and long-term measures to deal with problems emerging, especially the shortage of standardised drinking water, the PM noted.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, water flows to the Mekong Delta in 2019-2020 are much less than the average, even less than the volume in 2015-2016, which is the main cause of early, serious and prolonged saltwater intrusion in this dry season.

Saltwater encroachment has influenced agriculture and people’s life since December last year and continually got worse. It has been recorded in 10 of the 13 provincial-level localities in the region, excluding An Giang, Dong Thap and Can Tho.

About 95,600 local households are facing water shortages, compared to 210,000 in the 2015-2016 dry season, the ministry said, adding that authorities are taking measures to ensure water supply for them.

Speaking highly of efforts to cope with drought and saltwater intrusion, PM Phuc affirmed that Vietnam has enough food reserves to meet domestic and export demand.

A difficult problem will be successfully resolved if all economic sectors and the whole people join hands to deal with it, he emphasised.

At the meeting, he asked localities in the Mekong Delta to make active moves to fight the COVID-19 outbreak while fulfilling socio-economic development tasks without revising targets.

They also need to step up applying science and technology to agriculture, industry and services so as to obtain better results in these fields, thus helping to achieve the country’s target of 42 billion USD in agriculture exports this year, the PM said, adding that the Government will support the provinces hit hard by drought and saltwater intrusion./.