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Rural residents in Mekong Delta need access to clean water

All residents in rural areas of the Mekong Delta must have access to clean water, Nguyen Hoang Hiep, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said at a seminar held in Soc Trang province on May 27.

Hiep urged the delta, which includes 12 provinces and Can Tho city, to improve water quality and to encourage residents to use water efficiently.

About 96,000 households with a total of 430,000 people in rural areas in the delta face clean water shortages during the dry season because of saltwater intrusion, deteriorating water supply systems, and declining groundwater resources.

Most of the households live in Ben Tre, Soc Trang, Kien Giang, Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, Long An and Tra Vinh provinces. The provinces have set up free water supply sites and transported clean water from other places to these households.    

He said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) over the long term would work with other ministries to build irrigation projects to solve water shortages during the dry season.

The delta should also repair existing concentrated water supply projects, he said.

In the next three years, delta provinces should expand tapwater pipe networks, drill concentrated bored wells in areas with no access to tap water, and build water containers for the 96,000 rural households without access to clean water, Hiep added.

Ninety-eight percent of the delta's 13 million rural residents have access to hygienic water. Of that figure, 55 percent have access to clean water that meets national standards, according to MARD.

About eight million rural residents in the delta have access to water from 3,858 concentrated water supply projects, while five million rural residents use water from wells, bored wells, rainwater or other sources.

Seminar participants said that more investment was needed to build water supply projects and water reservoirs. 

Luong Minh Quyet, director of Soc Trang province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that water shortages were caused by low rainfall and the low flow of the Mekong River during the dry season.

The lack of funds for new water supply projects is another cause. To provide clean water to all households in Soc Trang province, more than 1 trillion VND (43 million USD) is needed to build water supply projects.

To Quoc Nam, deputy director of Ca Mau province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province faces a similar situation and that rural residents live in scattered areas, which makes investing in water supply projects more difficult.

Only about 18 percent of Ca Mau’s population have access to concentrated water supply projects, the lowest rate in the delta, he said. The remaining use rainwater or bored well water.

To reduce the exploitation of groundwater, Nam has petitioned MARD to take water from the Hau River, a tributary of the Mekong River, to Ca Mau. Ca Mau is the only province in the delta that cannot access water from the Mekong River./.