Vietnam’s ‘rice bowl’ about to crack as saltwater levels rise

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A farmer looking at his crop in a field in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, known as the country’s rice bowl’.

A farmer looking at his crop in a field in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, known as the country’s rice bowl’.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Vietnam faces nearly $3 billion a year in crop losses as more saltwater seeps into arable land, state media reported on March 17, citing new research.

The damage would likely centre on the Mekong Delta region, known as “Vietnam’s rice bowl” because it provides food and livelihoods for tens of millions of people, research from the country’s Environment Ministry showed.

Saltwater levels are often higher in the dry season but they are intensifying due to rising sea levels, droughts, tidal fluctuations, and a lack of upstream freshwater.

The resulting crop losses could amount to 70 trillion dong ($2.94 billion), state media VnExpress reported, citing new research from the Water Resources Science Institute, which is under the Environment Ministry.

The research presented at a conference on water resourse management on Friday, found that among the most impacted parts of the region would be the southernmost Ca Mau province, which could lose an estimated $665 million.

Earlier this month, the Department of Water Resources warned saline intrusion could impact around 80,000 hectares of rice and fruit farms in the Mekong Delta.

Salt intrusion in the area between 2023-2024 was higher than the average, according to the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

The delta suffered an unusually long heatwave in February, leading to drought in several areas and low water levels in the region’s canals.



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