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Use groundwater and risks to the lives of people in the Mekong Delta
Researchers Pham Van Tuan (Southern Center for Planning and Investigation of Groundwater Resources) and colleagues at the Delft Water Education Research Institute, the Netherlands, jointly evaluated the impact of water resource variability implicit in people's lives in the Mekong Delta.

Binh Duong Water - Environment Joint Stock Company transported household water to support people in Ben Tre province during the drought and saltwater season. Source: Vietnamnet.

Scientists have focused on Tra Vinh, one of the localities most at risk of flooding and saltwater intrusion. With only 1% of the area being urban, Tra Vinh is truly an agricultural province with 33% rice cultivation, 13% aquaculture, and 5% perennial crops. Another characteristic is that the area of rivers, lakes and canals accounts for 17% of the total area of the province. To understand the role of groundwater in livelihoods, they conducted surveys of households and stakeholders, such as local water plants.

Analyzing survey data and information from many other sources, they found that groundwater use has adapted depending on water conditions and income levels: 1) people's household use of groundwater differs between regions and depend on the distribution of groundwater salinization; 2) the closer to the coastal area, the more people have to use groundwater, thus depending on fresh water supplies from further inland; 3) Poor households in coastal areas will face many risks due to limited local groundwater resources due to salinity, even groundwater depletion; 4) use surface water to compensate for groundwater shortages in agriculture; and 5) beginning to show signs of groundwater depletion due to overexploitation for farming.

Overall, water use for household and agricultural purposes has reflected people's adaptation, driven by both natural and human factors. This result has a negative impact on the sustainability of water resources and local development. Because the amount of natural water recharged by rainwater is low, groundwater is strategically important for household water use as well as for poor households living on the coast, which are even more vulnerable to the groundwater limitation.

Therefore, researchers believe it is necessary to strengthen water management to avoid risks to low-income households with strategies, such as improving the ability to treat saline water and groundwater into household water, limit the use of groundwater for agricultural irrigation and promote the exploitation of rainwater to supplement existing household water sources to benefit and improve life. In addition, strategies are needed to increase water supply capacity for coastal areas.

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