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Delta facing major water crisis

Publication Date : 02-07-2014

 

 More efforts must be made to efficiently manage and use scarce water resources of the Mekong River as climate change and rapid development to produce electricity are threatening its sustainability.

Speaking at a conference yesterday in Ninh Binh Province titled "Green Growth on the Rise in the Mekong River Basin," Le Duc Trung, Director General of the Vietnam National Mekong Committee (VNMC), said water resources in the Mekong Delta were facing great challenges due to increased population, expansion of irrigated areas and construction of mainstream hydropower projects.

"Like many other countries in the region, Vietnam is also facing many challenges of using water resources in a sustainable manner," he said.

"These challenges include reduced amount of water in both surface and groundwater coupled with increasingly degraded water quality and threats from flooding, drought, sea level rise, natural disasters and coastal erosion," he warned.

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam covers an area of about 3.96 million hectares, accounting for 5 per cent of the area of the Mekong River Basin and accommodates more than 22 per cent of the total population of the country.

It receives about 475 billion cubic metres of water every year from the Mekong River and 160 million tonnes of sediment and accompanied nutrients, ensuring its vast agricultural potential. Mekong River water also creates and maintains wetlands in Vietnam.

Experts, however, have long warned that many of the planned hydropower projects, when completed, would cause significant impact on the environment, especially the water resources, and endanger the livelihood of the basin's inhabitants especially in the Mekong Delta, which ensures food security for about 85 million Vietnamese as well as the global need.

The Mekong River Commission, an intergovernmental group known as MRC, estimates that by 2013, there were at least 77 hydropower projects planned on Mekong River's tributaries and 11 mainstream hydropower projects/dams planned in the Lower Mekong Basin, which is home to more than 60 million people.

According to the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a multilateral international organisation working with countries to discover and realise their green growth potential, the adverse impacts from man-made developments and consequent environment changes have forced affected countries to further enhance protection for water.

Dr. Imran Habib Ahmad, Director of East Asia and Pacific of GGGI, said the gap between global demand for fresh water resources and available supply was expected to be about 40 per cent in 2030 and the Mekong River Basin was not an exception to this challenge.

Since October 2013, GGGI has been working closely with VNMC to develop and apply a systematic approach to water resources management in the Mekong Delta.

Juhern Kim, a senior advisor with GGGI, said some of the challenges that must be tackled in water resources management in the Mekong Delta included overexploitation of water resources, lax law enforcement for parties that pollute water resources and lack of job opportunities to boost the development of the Mekong Delta.

Victor Vazquez, a water specialist with the World Bank Vietnam, said poorly managed "extreme water" could cost countries more GDP growth than many economic recessions, requiring countries such as Vietnam to consider water as a cross-sectional issue.

According to Vazquez, better water management means better allocation of water between competing users, improved regulatory reforms and increased opportunities for private sector financing, among other tasks.

 

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