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Delta’s painful changes afoot
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Nov 20, 2017,23:20 (GMT+7)

Delta’s painful changes afoot

The Saigon Times Daily

The Government has boldly selected a new growth model for the Mekong Delta to enable it to adapt well to climate change. In Resolution 120/NQ-CP on sustainable development for the Mekong Delta issued last week, the Government stressed that the delta will shift from “living with floods” to “living with floods, brackish water and saltwater,” with freshwater being prioritized for people’s livelihood. 

Such a shift will consequently usher in drastic changes to the economic structure of the Mekong Delta.

As stated in the resolution, agricultural production will no longer be dominated by rice, but a combination of fish, fruit and rice, of which freshwater, brackish water and saltwater fish will be the key commodity for commercialization, according to the Government website.

The Government in its resolution also highlights the need to develop green industries with minimal CO2 emissions so as to protect the natural ecosystem. Specifically, the delta will develop renewable energy associated with forest and coastline protection, and lay emphasis on tourism as a driving force.

Under the Government’s new instructions, all projects must be well screened in three dimensions, namely economy, society, and environment.

Such drastic changes, in reality, are inevitable as climate change and encroachments on the freshwater resources in the entire Mekong River catchment area are having adverse impacts on the Mekong Delta.

Drought tends to last longer, salinity intrusion gets more severe, and water flow from the upper reaches of the Mekong River dwindles due to numerous hydropower dams being developed in neighboring countries.

But such changes will, as a matter of course, also cost the economy, businesses and the people dearly. Extensive adjustments to irrigation works associated with vast areas of freshwater farming delta-wide must be done, pollution-causing manufacturing facilities, such as paper, pulp and cement projects in the region should be closed or relocated, and especially dozens of coal-fired power projects that are either underway or in the preparatory stage should have no reason to exist. It is probable that hundreds of projects costing billions of dollars are doomed, sooner or later, if the Government’s resolution is to be strictly adhered to.

Sweeping changes stated in the Government’s resolution will certainly usher in a painful process. However, since such changes are inevitable now that consequences of climate change are being felt, it is high time all the stakeholders, from the Government to ministries and agencies, and from local authorities to enterprises and farmers, should fully commit to the common goal.

The changes are inevitable because the problems are unavoidable. The sooner the problems are addressed, the less painful the process will be.

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