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Mekong Delta rice paddies at risk of being salinated

By Trung Chanh

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HCMC – Saline intrusion in the 2022-2023 dry season in the Mekong Delta is forecast to occur sooner, leaving hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice in the delta’s coastal provinces at risk of being salinated.

Saltwater is expected to enter 20-30 kilometers deep into the estuaries of the Mekong River and 30-40 kilometers into the Vam Co River in November and December, the Directorate of Water Resources under the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development reported.

However, it will not affect irrigation in the areas, the agency added.

Saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta would penetrate deeper to 50-60 kilometers in January and February 2023, 5-8 kilometers higher than the average of many years but lower by 8-20 kilometers than in 2020.

As saltwater intrudes deep, it exceeds the extent saline control works can handle, especially during high tides and strong winds.

Saltwater intrusion in March 2023 will depend on the water regulated in the upstream Mekong River dams. If the water increases, saline intrusion will be mitigated. Otherwise, it will stay as deep as in February 2023.

Meanwhile, saltwater intrusion would enter 60-65 kilometers deep into the Vam Co River estuaries, up 5-10 kilometers over the average of the years and down 15-20 kilometers against 2020.

Saline intrusion in the area near the Cai Lon River would be under control thanks to the Cai Lon sluice.

According to the Directorate of Water Resources, some 60,000 hectares of rice paddies would be affected when saltwater intrudes, including 11,900 hectares in Tien Giang Province, 12,000 hectares in Ben Tre Province, 15,000 hectares in Tra Vinh Province and 20,000 hectares in Soc Trang Province.

The delta’s coastal areas have nearly 900,000 hectares under rice cultivation. Of them, some 400,000 hectares need to be sowed early from October 10 to 30 to avoid deficit irrigation, Le Thanh Tung, deputy head of the Department of Crop Production, said.

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