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Vietnam foresees water issues in 2020

Rivers across Vietnam are facing severe water shortages in the coming dry season.

The Vietnam Metrological and Hydrological Administration said on February 7 that water reserves of northern rivers would remain low between February and July.

From February to April, the water level in the Da River basin to reservoirs of Lai Chau, Son La and Hoa Binh is predicted to be 20 to 50 percent lower than previous years.

The Thao River basin will lack 40 to 70 percent of its water reserves compared to previous years, while Lo River basin might be 60 to 90 percent below its normal capacity.

The lowest water level recorded at the Hanoi measuring station on the Hong (Red River) at the end of February or early March is predicted to be 0.2 to 0.3m.

Rivers in the central region and Central Highlands are forecast to suffer severe water shortages over the summer, with volumetric flow rates reducing by 25 to 80 percent compared to the same period last year.

From March to May, Thanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces, as well as Central Highlands localities, will face a water crisis.

From June to August, drought and saline intrusion are set to spread in coastal central provinces from Quang Tri to Khanh Hoa, similarly to the last dry season.

In the south, as the water level in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake has dropped, the volumetric flow rate on the Mekong River to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta from February to March is predicted to reduce from 5 to 20 percent compared to 2016.

In mid-March, the flow rate to Kratie Station in Cambodia might rise as reservoirs will open sluice gates.

According to Hoang Duc Cuong, the administration’s deputy head, saline intrusion in Mekong Delta will get worse this year, peaking in February.

Chau Tran Vinh, deputy head of the Department of Water Resources Management said as of February, four of 11 river basins had suffered water shortages including the Ma, Huong, Vu Gia – Thu Bon and Ba rivers.

However, since the beginning of the dry season, many reservoirs had halted discharges of water or stopped generating electricity to ensure water supply for the rest of the season, from five to seven months. Therefore, despite the shortage, the situation had not yet been serious, he said.

Seasonal rainfall from February to April is forecast to drop by up to 40 percent compared to previous years, especially in the Central Highlands and southern region, triggering a looming water crisis across the country, according to the Vietnam Institute of Metrology, Hydrology and Climate Change.

According to the National Centre for Water Resources Planning and Investigation, Vietnam’s underground water reserve is 91 billion cubic metres per year including 69 billion cubic metres of freshwater. The freshwater that has been licensed to exploit is 3.6 billion cubic metres per year or 9.9 million cubic metres per day.

The centre’s director Tong Ngoc Thanh stressed underground water planning as an immediate solution to respond to the water shortage, especially in urban areas, and subsidence due to excessive exploitation in deltas.

Le Cong Thanh, deputy minister of natural resources and environment, asked the Department of Water Resources Management to give early warnings to localities which might face water shortages.

He also urged Vietnam National Mekong Committee to research Cambodia’s Sesan and Serepok rivers and propose a plan with Cambodia over water sharing and requested Vietnam Metrological and Hydrological Administration report on saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta./.