Vietnam seeks ways for climate-resilient, sustainable development of Mekong Delta

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaking at the third conference on climate-resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong Delta in Can Tho City. - Vietnam News/ANN

HANOI, March 14 (Vietnam News/ANN): Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has stressed the strategic importance of the Mekong Delta as it accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s rice exports but is facing critical challenges posed by climate change.

At a conference on climate-resilient and sustainable development of the delta in Can Tho City on Saturday (March 13), the Prime Minister urged attendees to continue identifying challenges caused by climate change, and to implement top-priority projects in a timely manner.

Forty per cent of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region will be under water by 2100 due to the impact of climate change unless serious measures are taken immediately, experts have warned.

Caitlin Wiesen, country director of UNDP Vietnam, said the delta, home to 17 million people, is Vietnam’s most important agricultural region. Producing 55 per cent of the country’s rice, the region feeds more than 245 million people around the world.

“The area is vital for food security in Việt Nam and neighbouring countries within the region and beyond as well,” she said.

The delta is also the country’s third largest industrial region after the metropolitan areas of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

However, the delta is facing existential threats, including rising sea levels, coastal erosion, landslides, and drought.

According to studies, 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta could be underwater by 2100, with half of its population affected. Some areas of the coast are already eroding at a rate of more than 30 metres a year.

In 2016, the region suffered the worst drought in 90 years, which, together with rising sea levels, led to a heavy intrusion of saltwater into rice-growing areas.

The mangrove forests along the coast, which protect the hinterland from floods and storms, are also in dramatic decline.

All of these problems have threatened the region’s ability to provide essential ecosystem services on which the communities of the delta and millions of people around the world depend.

She said that integrated planning and governance were needed.

“It is important to look at resources not from one area within the region but how they are engaged together,” she said. “Community engagement is extremely important as they are on the frontlines.”

The UNDP is working with local communities and government to strengthen regional governance to ensure that people affected by climate change will benefit in the future as part of the new master plan for the Mekong Delta from 2021 to 2030.

Speaking at the conference in Can Tho, Truong Hoa Bình, permanent Deputy Prime Minister, said that Government Resolution 120 issued in 2017 set out a long-term strategy for sustainable development, focusing on strengthening linkages between localities to combat climate change.

After more than three years of implementation, the resolution has helped to attract investment in “green” agriculture, improve value chains, and create a foothold for agricultural products in the world market.

Large-scale concentrated agriculture production areas have been formed with key agricultural products such as shrimp, pangasius, rice and fruit. Processing technology has also been improved, helping to create value chains for agricultural products.

Rice cultivation, including world-famous brands, covers 4.19 million hectares in the delta, accounting for 54.3 per cent of the country’s total rice growing area.

The region has more than 335,400 hectares of fruit trees, accounting for 36.3 per cent of the country’s fruit area, including major crops such as dragon fruit, mango, orange, pomelo, rambutan, longan, durian and pineapple.

Carolyn Turk, World Bank country director in Việt Nam, said that Resolution 120 was a big step forward in setting the basis for coordinated action for sustainable development in the Mekong Delta.

During the 2015-2020 period, the World Bank in Vietnam mobilised US$2.2 billion for research and investment activities in the region. - Virtnam News/ANN
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