The Global Challenges Research Fund, a UK government organisation created to address problems faced by developing countries has started a £2 million project to help preserve the Mekong Delta in the south of Vietnam, as well as the country’s northern Red River Delta and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta in India and Bangladesh.
Launched at a British Embassy event in Hanoi last week, the Living Deltas Hub project recognises the three deltas as major food sources and aims to protect them from excessive exploitation and the resulting environmental degradation. The project is intended to promote sustainable development and combat short-sighted practices in the deltas such as uncontrolled sand dredging.
In the meantime, Mekong Delta authorities have been fighting a losing battle with severe drought and salinity this season. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the rainy season in the delta last year was shorter than usual and the total rainfall was 8 percent below the average. Seawater has intruded as far as 110 kilometres inland and affected up to 40 percent of the total delta area, with farmers already planting for a new crop and therefore in need of large amounts of fresh water.
Known as Vietnam’s rice granary, the Mekong Delta is the nation’s most fertile region and the whole country relies on its productivity. To counter ill effects of saltwater intrusion, the region has been provided with more than 20,000 water tanks and the authorities are planning to implement a whole range of protective measures, such as installing 1,600 kilometres of water supply pipes, digging wells and freshwater lakes as well as building a system of temporary dams to keep saltwater out of the delta.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture has also hinted that farmers might need to start switching to crops that would be more suited to the current climatic situation. Whether anyone likes it or not, change is coming to the Mekong Delta.