Climate Change in the Mekong Delta and Rising Concerns
Climate change has been the main cause of environmental catastrophe in the Mekong Delta in recent years, making the people living in this region to suffer the most. However, there was a different picture of the Mekong Delta before the arrival of humans. This wetland was once called biological treasure trove and houses thousands of species, including humans. The Delta is a precious resource to us by the generosity of nature from 6,000 years ago. This land was protective sandbars formed by sediment and became the Delta as we know today from such a long process of geological changes. Yet, we are destroying it faster than ever before, threatening the life of our next generations.
It is hard to imagine this wetland ecosystem once hosted a diverse and thriving flora and fauna. Besides, it provides so many great benefits to our living conditions. Climate change is clearly a big concern for us, but after all, it is our actions that are responsible for the problem. Mekong Delta today is reaching a point where we could potentially lose one of the most diverted bio-system in the world. This means Vietnam can be no longer the third rice exporting country, and this could soon happen to other countries too, for the same reasons.
Happening now in Mekong Delta
It is no doubt that our community is listening and acting quick. However, there is no worse than to fix a problem without understanding the root of it. For example, digging for freshwater to tackle climate change can further worsen the situation and cause land subsidence. What is happening in Mekong Delta now is not just a lack of water as a result of seasonal drought. The region is being threatened with several far-reaching problems. The impact of climate change and our activity is causing a tremendous negative effect on the wetland at a rapid rate. However, Vietnam is suffering the most among countries that share this long large stream.
It is hard to believe the whole Mekong Delta will be submerged underwater by 2050 as the scientists predict. Envisioning and facing this reality is not easy. However, with the current stage is only eighty centimeters above the sea level, plus excessive human impacts, that reality is imminent. Mekong Delta is the heart of agriculture in Vietnam. This region produces 50% of the rice for Vietnam, including exporting. Besides, Mekong Delta also accounts for 65% of aquaculture products as well as 70% of fruit, and more important, 20 million people call this place home. There is a bigger problem if we don’t take action now. Soil erosion, mangrove forest deforestation, salinity intrusion, and the impact of upstream dams are among our current concerns.
The Mekong Delta has been battling with Mekong Delta for years. While the erosion of soil seems to be common along river banks, but not at such a rapid rate. However, the climate change in Mekong Delta has nothing to do with this, but human activities do, especially sand mining and upstream built-dams in Laos and China. Hydropower dams blocking alluvial land and over-exploitation of sand cause a shortage of alluvial soil in the river bed, making the water flow stronger than normal. This is the reason that causes land erosion, threatening the lives of millions of people here.
Mangrove Forest is disappearing
The decline of mangrove forests due to agriculture development could be more dangerous than we think. This coastal forest protects the local ecosystem and residents from external natural damages. These plants root deep inside the ground and help to slow the movement of water flow, keeping the sediments and building up the muddy bottom. By this way, mangrove forest plays a very important role in stabilizing the coastline and prevent erosion from natural forces. More important, it is also home to a thriving bio-system, including many species of animals and plants. Yet, the forest dense is declining at an alarming level not only in Mekong Delta but also at other places in the world.
Salinity intrusion is the result of climate change in the Mekong Delta. It is problematic to the coastal communities like Mekong Delta, especially those who live mainly on agriculture. Saltwater cannot be used for crops and for daily livings. This is a very clear sign showing that Mekong Delta will be submerged when the sea level is raised by climate change. People recently digging into the soil for groundwater supplies, but this should not be an alternative. The effect of land mining has made the river bed of Mekong Delta deeper and water flow stronger than ever. Groundwater exploitation will soon weaken the soil and accelerate the rate of erosion, making it worse.
The future of the Mekong Delta today is in our hands. This is the time when we need to act together because we depend on that future very much. Destroying Mekong Delta means we are losing our habitats. Nature has been giving us warning signs, and if we fail to take action, there might not be a second chance for us. Let us know what do you think about the situation of Mekong Delta, we would love to hear from you.
Featured Image by Markus Spiske