Over 70 percent of businesses in the Mekong Delta are suffering from the potentially devastating effects of climate change, said Nguyen Phuong Lam, Vice Director of the Can Tho Chapter of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).
Among more than 28,000 active firms, mostly small- and medium-sized enterprises, 6.5 percent are operating in agriculture, 20 percent in the processing industry and 47 percent in trade and services, which have been hit the hardest by the changing climate.
A possible scenario shows that 40 percent of the Mekong Delta's land will flood if sea levels rise by 1m, and about 2 million ha of farming land will be deemed unusable if salinity encroaches another 100m.
Lam asked for a corporate awareness campaign on climate change consequences and for the Government to launch a special project on regional economic development amid climate change.
He also urged private companies to strengthen their climate resilience to disasters and climate change's implications.
Huynh Quang Vinh, Deputy General Director of the An Giang Fruit-vegetables and Foodstuff Company, said the firm has come up with ways to fight disasters and fires, equip itself with necessary devices, and educate staff on potential threats and cautionary measures.
Mekong Delta makes livelihood adapt to climate change
Localities in the Mekong Delta have taken a series of measures to adapt to climate change, which causes serious impacts on the livelihood of the region's communities.
Local farmers have been shifting the structure of their crops and domestic animals, and improving the value of farm products by developing new production models, and applying science and advanced technologies to create higher value products.
A club for decorative shaped fruit production in Hau Giang province's Chau Thanh district is a prominent example. The fruit's shapes increase their value by seven or eight times.
It supplies thousands of grapefruits with various decorative shapes at a minimum price of 300,000 VND each to the market every lunar year (Tet) festival.
The Thanh Phuoc agricultural co-operative in the locality has also performed well. It has succeeded in planting seedless lemons over the last decade.
According to the Director of the co-operative Nguyen Van Chien, seedless lemon cultivation suits the changeable weather in the region. It becomes a sustainable livelihood for local poor families.
Nguyen Thi Kieu, Deputy Director of Can Tho's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the locality's farmers were instructed to convert their agriculture production into more efficient models.
Can Tho aims to increase production of seed rice and other farm products such as sesame, soybean and corn, while reducing the cultivation area of ineffective crops, she said.
Statistics show that over 62 percent of the Mekong Delta's population is operating in the agro-forestry-aquaculture sector, which is a major livelihood for regional residents.
It is estimated that the Mekong Delta contributes roughly 50 percent of the country's total food output and over 90 percent of rice exports every year. Aquaculture accounts for over 60 percent of output and 80 percent of export, while the livestock industry brings the country 1.5 to 2 billion USD per year.
However, the region is coping with serious impacts from climate change, which has gradually affected the region in many ways, including hurting local incomes.
The situation requires close cooperation between regional authorities and more support to stabilise production for export. They also need to promote agricultural and rural service development, and ensure national food security.
Concerns raised about adverse impacts of hydropower projects on Mekong
Developing mainstream hydropower projects on the lower Mekong River could lead to long-term and unrecoverable losses to its deltas and the water environment, adversely impacting the livelihoods of millions of people in the region.
The warning was issued in a study on impacts of mainstream hydropower on the Mekong River released at a workshop in Ho Chi Minh City on December 4.
The function attracted more than 70 Vietnamese and foreign scholars, scientists and managers. It was also attended by representatives from international and non-governmental organisations, the Mekong River Commission, and the Mekong River committees of Laos and Cambodia.
Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Thai Lai, who is also the deputy head of the Vietnam National Mekong River Committee, said the proposed building of 11 hydropower projects on the mainstream of the lower Mekong River in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam is raising concerns over possible negative impacts on the environment, economy and society in the riverside countries, especially in the river deltas of Cambodia and Vietnam.
The study made it clear that the operations of mainstream hydropower projects could result in a 65 percent nosedive in the alluvium, mud and nutrition volume in Cambodia's Krache and Vietnam's Tan Chau and Chau Doc, and a sharp decline in biological and agricultural productivity.
Meanwhile, erosion, deposition in riverside and coastal areas, and saltwater intrusion will become more serious.
Mainstream hydropower facilities are forecast to obstruct the movement of fish and other migratory aquatic species, making the total fish haul fall dramatically – by up to 50 percent – in Vietnam and Cambodia, where a majority of delta residents are directly or indirectly relying on fisheries for their livelihood.
Such projects are likely to trigger the disappearance or even extinction of up to 10 percent of fish species in Vietnam and Cambodia along with a decrease in the numbers of other aquatic species.
The report adds that the Mekong deltas hold unique natural values at both national and international levels. Mainstream hydropower could undermine all the existing values.
Additionally, about 3,400 tonnes of phosphate in the Mekong deltas will disappear every year due to hydropower dams, costing local resident 24 million USD a year to buy fertiliser to replace.
Vietnam could lack 2.4 million tonnes of mud and 0.02 million tonnes of clay every year, leading to a 2.3 – 2.5 percent drop in the rice output and a 21 – 22 percent reduction in the corn output annually. As a result, the country would have to buy a great amount of fertiliser to replace those natural elements.
Meanwhile, 12.3 million tonnes of mud and 0.2 million tonnes of clay are predicted to not flow into Cambodia a year, according to the report.
At the workshop, participants said the countries that the Mekong River traverses should conduct all-round analyses on hydropower dams' locations and consider relocating some dams to simultaneously ensure hydropower benefits and minimise impacts on the mainstream river and its deltas.
Some experts called on certain facilities not to be built in the downstream areas, while dams should be constructed on tributaries instead of the mainstream. They also said dams must be designed appropriately to ensure the movement of alluvium, mud and sand management strategies as well as the habitat of aquatic species.
Several opinions urged for the connection of the Mekong deltas by fine-tuning the design and operations of their flood-control facilities to facilitate the movement of fish and applying non-structural measures to make up for losses caused by water level and salinity changes.
The study unveiled at the workshop was conducted with the coordination of the Lao and Cambodia Governments, Denmark's DHI group, the US's HDR company, and World Bank specialists. It is expected to be given to the Mekong River Commission and the member countries for the consideration of overhauling mainstream hydropower development plans.