Drought sparks food fears in central region
Residents of central Viet Nam are facing the prospect of serious food insecurity as they grapple with the worst drought in almost three decades.
Although it is the rainy season, fields along the National Highway 14B from Hoa Vang to Dai Loc are parched.
Sixty-year-old Nguyen Thi Sau, a resident of Dai Loc District in Quang Nam Province, said: "I have been cultivating this field in Dong Giao Hamlet all my life, but have never had to suffer such a drought during a rainy season.
Formerly, we had to build embankments to prevent flood waters destroying the winter-spring crop. This year, there is not a single drop of water. The field is so dry that the tractor can hardly plough it." She said that the farmers would still till the land this season, but did not know what would happen because the absence of regular flooding would cause a lot of rats and crickets to stay in the fields. In previous years, fields in Dong Giao, Ha Nha, and Ha Thanh hamlets in Dai Dong Commune had abundant winter-spring crops thanks to floods bringing in plentiful alluvium and sweeping away rats and crickets.
This year, even small streams have dried up. Vu Gia, the river that sustains life for half of Quang Nam's residents, has also run dry.
Almost limitless expanses of fields in Dien Ban, Duy Xuyen and Thang Binh districts also stand parched.
Typically, this is a time for peasants to flock to the fields to work the soil and prepare for cultivation, but there are few people to be seen working now.
The same drought conditions and booming rat population also prevail in many other central provinces like Hue, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh.
According to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, total rainfall in the two main months of the rainy season, October and November, has fallen by 70 to 90 per cent in the region that extends from Quang Tri to Ninh Thuan Province.
The Quang Nam Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has been carrying out several measures over the last week to cope with the drought.
Department director Nguyen Thanh Quang said there were only ten days left before the day of sowing, but most reservoirs lacked water because the province received just 60 – 70 per cent of the usual rainfall this season.
"The province has 73 water reservoirs, but only 20 small ones have had enough water so far," Quang said.
Da Nang City, meanwhile, is lacking water for production as well as daily use.
In the last half of November, the Cau Do Water Supply Company, the biggest water company in the city with a capacity of 300,000 cubic metres a day has suffered saline intrusion.
In order to ensure water supply for more than one million residents of the city and neighbouring areas, the company has had to take water from the An Trach Dam 10km away.
Huynh Van Thang, deputy director of the Da Nang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the two biggest reservoirs in the city are short of around 14 million cubic metres of water.
The city has asked hydropower plant reservoirs in the upper reaches of Vu Gia River, including A Vuong and Dak Mi 4, to release water for irrigation and household use.
Le Van Nhat, a farmer in Hoa Phuoc Commune, said: "This is the time for us to open (irrigation) ditches to let water out, but this year, we have to close them to try and retain water.
"We are worried because there is no water in the upper reaches, so where is the water for us to cultivate?"
Given the forecasts about a serious shortage of water to irrigate the upcoming winter-spring crop, the department has instructed localities to use short and medium-term rice varieties apart from the main varieties to mitigate drought impacts.
The city has also directed localities to cultivate other drought-resistant crops in areas were sufficient water sources are unavailable to irrigate rice fields.