Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vietnam's Mekong paddies dry up

Aude Genet in Agence France-Presse: The rivers that should nourish his thirsty rice paddies are too salty, and the rains are late this year. Dang Roi does not know if he will be able to salvage anything from this spring's crop. Vietnam is the world's second-biggest rice exporter and the Mekong Delta, where Roi farms, accounts for more than half of its production.

But Roi's paddy fields in Ben Tre province are burning up during a drought which meteorologists say is the worst in decades. The dry season should have ended already, but in the yard of Roi's house in Que Dien commune, barrels that collect rainwater for his family's cooking and washing show the desperate situation. They are half-full, or empty.

Experts say Vietnam is one of the countries most threatened by climate change, whose effects are seen in worsening drought, floods, typhoons, exaggerated tides, and rising sea levels. The country is planning for a one-metre (three feet) rise in sea levels by 2100, which would flood about 31,000 square kilometres (12,400 square miles) of land -- an area about the size of Belgium -- unless systems such as dykes are strengthened, said a UN discussion paper released last year.

It said the threat of floods is greatest in the Mekong Delta, where 17 million people live. If that land becomes unusable there are "serious implications" for the region, Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), told AFP last month.

She said Vietnam faces a "huge challenge" from climate change. Over the past 50 years the sea level has already risen by 20 centimetres (eight inches) along Vietnam's coast, according to the increasingly worried communist government.

While delta farmers cope with drought, they are also challenged by sea water intrusion, which experts also link to climate change...

Rice paddies near Hanoi

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