MK 26 - Challenges in the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is of great importance not only to Vietnam’s economy but to the whole Mekong region. The area is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam, producing around 90% of the country’s rice exports and also supplying fish and fruit to neighbouring countries. Since the early 1990s, rice farming has gradually intensified as irrigation networks have expanded and use of inputs has increased. Some farmers began growing three rice crops per year and, with the addition of the full dyke system in the early 2000s, many more farmers became able to triple-crop. While this enabled rice production to increase until Vietnam became one of the world’s largest rice exporters, the environmental drawbacks have begun to affect many residents of the Delta. More fertiliser is needed each year to maintain rice yields on land that is so intensively farmed. The network of irrigation canals and gates catches input-laden water that run offs from fields and holds it in closed channels for much of the year, meaning that agricultural chemicals build up in the system. This is thought to be one of the main factors in the decline of fish catch across the Delta. Fish are disappearing from rivers, streams and canals, and along with aquatic species such as shrimps and frogs, they are becoming less common in paddy fields. This reduction in freely available traditional protein sources greatly affects poorer households. As fish become harder to find, people resort to more extreme methods of catching them. The rising use of electricity, small-mesh nets and chemicals then further damages aquatic resource populations. At the same time weather patterns are becoming increasingly unpredictable. Drought periods are followed by floods, while salt water from the South China Sea at the end of the Delta is intruding further up the river system every year.
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