Upstream hydropower dams are believed to have a great impact on the Mekong Delta (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – As many as 18 million residents in the Mekong Delta are suffering serious consequences as the Mekong River is drying up due to over exploitation of hydropower plants in upstream countries, delegates heard at a recent conference in the Delta province of An Giang.

According to the report from the Vietnam Mekong River Commission (VMRC), while China has basically completed the first development stage of its hydropower-shaped ladder on the Mekong river, Laos has strengthened hydropower exploitation by constructing two plants, Xayaburi and Don Sahong, on the main stream of the river and is preparing for the construction of Pakbeng on a branch of the river.

“Around 95 percent of total water flow in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta depends on water from upstream and the Delta has suffered great consequences,” Nguyen Thi Thu Linh, deputy head of the commission office, said at the Vietnam Mekong River Commission Conference 2017.

“The Mekong Delta is now facing strict water shortage in dry season, a significant increase of saline intrusion, serious water flow change and severe erosion, which strongly impact agricultural and aqua-cultural cultivation as well as daily lives,” she added.

Linh said a study showed that with these two Laotian hydropower dams, total water volume would reduce 13 percent, saline intrusion would come 3 – 4 km further into the Mekong Delta, alluvium would drop 5 percent and aquatic productivity would fall 9 percent.

Furthermore, Thailand and Cambodia are planning to divert a huge amount of the river’s water flow into other regions, and if this happens, 17 percent of the water resource and 90 percent of fish would never come to Vietnam, she concluded.

[Mekong basin dams pose danger: experts]

“Related authorities should set up different response scenarios with climate change based on the current situation rather than worry about information of upstream nations keeping all the water of the Mekong River,” said Hoang Van Thang, Deputy Minister of the Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Related authorities should collect more inter-regional information as a database for setting up climate change response scenarios, as well as call for more international support in water resource protection,” he added.

“We need official information of water volume from upstream countries to build a proper cultivation plan, but there is no way to get such information,” said Lam Quang Thi, Vice Chairman of the Mekong Delta province of An Giang.

He suggested the ministry of Natural Resource and Environment set up automatic measurement stations along the border with Cambodia to collect accurate and timely information about water.

“A master plan for Mekong Delta development should be established immediately. The master plan must update erosion in rivers and beaches, fix the road system and infrastructure development in order to restructure agricultural and aqua-cultural cultivation,” he added.

“Information sharing about the Mekong River’s water resource among ministries and localities is very weak,” Minister of Natural Resource and Environment Tran Hong Ha admitted.

He requested the VMRC in co-operation with relevant authorities to closely supervise an adjustment of the master plan on irrigation, transport infrastructure and agricultural cultivation.

“The commission should consider reserving water in Mekong river branches,” Ha said.-VNA