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Mekong Delta subsiding at alarming rate: workshop

The Mekong Delta is subsiding at an alarming rate, and if the situation continues without effective solutions, the livelihoods of tens of millions of people will be threatened, especially those in coastal areas, heard a recent workshop.

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam comprises 13 provincial-level localities with a total area of over 3.9 million hectares. As the biggest production hub of Vietnam, this region needs a huge volume of freshwater to serve agriculture, aquaculture, as well as industrial parks and nearly 18 million residents.

At a workshop in Ca Mau province on October 15, Andreas Renck, a representative of Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), said the delta boasts outstanding groundwater resources which have widespread presence and big reserves across the region. They are not affected by seasonal factors but naturally protected from pollution.

However, the overexploitation of ground water has been worsening the land subsidence here, he said, citing the EU’s recent satellite monitoring results as showing that the phenomenon is happening at an alarming rate.

The Mekong Delta is sinking by about 11mm each year. Particularly, the subsidence speed in some areas is faster than the sea level rise, up to 50mm each year, and it is happening faster and faster.

Without effective solutions to this issue, the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of people in the region will be threatened, particularly those in coastal areas, according to Renck.

He said that data and information about groundwater play the focal role in the making of decisions, from policy making to implementation, relevant to the licensing of exploitation and the examination of compliance with legal regulations. However, despite various efforts, the Mekong Delta still lacks basic information about groundwater resources, and this problem needs to be addressed soon.

Sharing the view, Chau Tran Vinh, Deputy Director of the Water Resource Management Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said sufficient and updated information and data on groundwater resources will serve as an objective and scientific basis for making policies, which is critical to the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta adapting to climate change.

Nguyen Bao Chung, an official of the ministry’s department for information technology and natural resource and environment information, said an integrated data centre of the Mekong Delta is being built in Can Tho city. It is expected to help improve the state’s management of different sectors in the region, thus contributing to local sustainable development.