Uncertain Future for the Mekong Delta as Erosion Threatens

Uncertain Future for the Mekong Delta as Erosion Threatens

The Mekong Delta, renowned for its extensive waterway network spanning nearly 28,000 km, faces significant challenges due to inadequate infrastructure along its rivers. The frequent passage of heavily loaded ships poses a threat to the embankment system, exacerbating erosion concerns.

Over the past decade, the government has allocated $694 million to combat erosion in the delta. Currently, there are nearly 600 riverine and coastal areas, measuring a total of 834 km, severely affected by erosion.

Ironically, water flow in the Mekong Delta has declined in recent years, attributed by scientists and environmentalists to the impact of upstream dams. The reduction in sediment flow, a consequence of these dams, is expected to worsen when all 11 dams constructed by China upstream are completed.

Until approximately 15 years ago, the Mekong River transported 143 million tons of sediment annually to the delta. However, by 2020, only about a third of that amount reached the Vietnamese floodplains. A recent study based on satellite data conducted by a German aquatic remote sensing company suggests that, at the current rate of decline, less than five million tons of sediment will reach the delta each year by 2040, posing a significant threat to the region.

Erosion has been causing the loss of 300-600 hectares of riverine land annually since 1992. Excessive sand mining is identified as one of the main culprits, while industrial-scale agriculture, aquaculture, deforestation of mangroves, and climate change also contribute to the problem.

An Giang, one of the provinces in the Mekong Delta, has experienced a surge in erosion risk over the past three years. To safeguard his mill, Vinh constructed three rows of embankments, each measuring 160 meters in length, using melaleuca poles, coconut tree trunks, and concrete, at a cost exceeding 10 billion VND (US$421,000). This year alone, 145 instances of erosion have resulted in losses exceeding 30 billion VND, including damage to 1.7 km of embankments and 1.5 km of roads.

Even before the arrival of the rainy season (from late May to November) this year, the provinces of Long An, An Giang, Dong Thap, Vinh Long, and Bac Lieu declared a state of emergency due to erosion, which has devastated ten areas along the coast and rivers.

In the first seven months of this year, Bac Lieu province witnessed a doubling of erosion incidents compared to the same period last year, resulting in the destruction of 119 houses and damage to thousands of hectares of fish farms.

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