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Mekong Delta faces severe landslides due to sand overexploitation

By Trung Chanh

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CAN THO – The exploitation of millions of tons of sand has contributed to worsening landslides in the Mekong Delta. As of December 2021, the region experienced 621 landslide sites, with a total length of 610 kilometers.

At a seminar on the building of sand banks and plans to maintain the rivers in the Mekong Delta on March 3, Le Thanh Chuong, a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the region had 147 extremely dangerous landslide sites with a total length of 127 kilometers, and 137 dangerous landslide sites totaling 193 kilometers. The rest were normal landslide sites.

An Giang, Ca Mau and Tien Giang have the most landslide sites, while most of the extremely dangerous landslide sites are in An Giang, Dong Thap, Vinh Long, Tien Giang and Can Tho.

Nearly 30 deep holes have been found in the Tien and Hau rivers, mainly in An Giang’s Tan Chau and Chau Doc districts and Dong Thap’s Sa Dec City and Thanh Binh District. Some of these holes are over 40 meters deep, posing a high risk for the river banks.

Regarding the exploitation of sand, Chuong cited recent international research stating that some 50 million tons of sand was exploited in the Mekong River valley per year, with 30 million tons being exploited by Cambodia, 12.4 million tons by Vietnam, six million tons by Thailand and 1.5 million tons by Laos.

In Vietnam, Chuong said that the Mekong Delta provinces were allowed to exploit 15 million cubic meters of sand per year. However, the volume of exploited sand, in reality, may reach 22.5-28 million tons per year, nearly double the allowed volume.

Meanwhile, the volume of alluvium and mud from the upper reaches of rivers has fallen, worsening the landslides in the region.

The volume of alluvium is now equal to 25%-35% of the 150-160 million tons accreted to the Mekong Delta earlier. The figure may continue tumbling to 10% as hydroelectric dams have been built.

Tran Thai Nghiem, deputy director of the Can Tho Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said landslides on rivers in the Mekong Delta were complicated.

Can Tho faced 226 landslides with a total length of nine kilometers in the 2021-2020 period.

He said landslides would keep occurring in the coming periods if the alluvium reduction and the overexploitation of sand continued.

Therefore, many experts proposed seeking new materials to replace sand for economic development.

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