On the morning of September 23rd, 2020, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and a delegation of the Government and Tien Giang province had a fact-finding trip to find out the impacts of recent saline intrusion and drought on the orchard areas in Cai Lay district, Tien Giang province to work out solutions to assist local people in recovering their affected areas, and, at the same time, discuss ways to help them proactively prevent saline intrusion and drought in the coming dry season and ensure stable production in the context of slowing down water flow from the upstrem river. In the contact with local people, the Prime Minister directly encouraged farmers, shared with their difficulties and sufferings. At the same time, he commended them for their efforts to overcome the obstacles and restore their orchards. He also requested them and local authorities to proactively find appropriate solutions to cope with saline instrusion and drought, prevent major damage and help stabilize production in the upcoming time.
In the afternoon, at the Conference Center of Tien Giang Province, the Prime Minister had a working session with the provinces and city of the Mekong Delta to discuss how to proactively cope with the risks of drought and saline intrusion in the dry season 2020-2021. Attending the meeting there were also Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Minister of Construction, leaders of some of central government agencies, Secretaries of Party Committees and Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the People's Committees of Mekong Delta localities. From Tien Giang province, there were Mr. Nguyen Van Danh - Member of the Central Party Committee, Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee; Mr. Le Van Huong - Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee, Vice Chairmen of the People's Committee, heads of the provincial government agencies as well as Secretaries of the Party Committees and Chairmen of People's Committees of district level.
In his opening speech, the Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc appreciated the positive performance of prevention of saline instrusion and drought in the 13 localities in the Mekong Delta, significantly decreasing damage, only about 8% compared to the season dry 2016. On the other hand, he also requested ministries, central government agencies and leaders of the 13 localities to carefully discuss solutions to proactively prevent saline instrusion and drought in the dry season 2020-2021 and the following years in the context of more negative impacts of climate change, seriously affecting production and people's life in the Mekong Delta, especially coastal provinces.
Following the Prime Minister's speech, Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development, Natural Resources and Environment and Construction, in turn, presented a general report of analyzing and assessing the damage of the whole Mekong Delta in the last saline instrusion and drought, anticipating the upcoming situation and the water resourse from the upstream Mekong River, as well as proposing solutions to proactively cope with saline intrusion and drought, including changing production structure, reserving freshwater at local people's houses, reducing loss in water supply systems for domestic use in the localities which still have a loss rate at a relatively high level (15% averagely), changing crop production time, choosing suitable crop varieties against saline instrusion and drought, building irrigation systems and large-scale freshwater reservoirs, etc.
At the meeting, leaders of provinces and city in the region also shared many valuable lessons from their prevention activities of saline intrusion and drought during last few years. For example, Tien Giang province did transporting fresh water to supply the fruit gardens; Bac Lieu province changed the production structure from cultivation to aquaculture; Soc Trang proactively province provided environmental forecast and monitored, operated water gates to prevent saline intrusion into fields and advising farmers to throw out the 3rd crop in areas where there was a shortage of fresh water; Vinh Long province provided local people with information of the drought and saline intrusion at least twice a day through mass media channels, including by phone so that they can well understand the situation and have appropriate solutions.
In some areas where there was a shortage of fresh water for daily use, barges and trucks were hired to supply fresh water for water plants. Particularly for Tien Giang province, Mr. Le Van
Huong - Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee proposed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development soon advise the Prime Minister to work out a solution to basically deal with saline intrusion through Ham Luong river (Ben Tre province) and Vam Co river (Long An province), at the same time, support Tien Giang in investing in water gates along Tien River, adjacent to Provincial Road 864. In addition, to ensure clean water for local people's use, he proposed the Prime Minister for the project of 2,300 billion VND in building a raw water pumping plant in Cai Be district including its water supply system for three provinces of Tien Giang, Long An and Ben Tre in the coming time.
In his conclusion of the meeting, the Prime Minister stated that through the recent severe season of drought and saline intrusion, a lesson was drawn: "When the Government, local authorities, all sectors and people well cooperate with their high determination, a difficult or even very difficult problem will be solved succesfully". On this occasion, he also said that we need to clearly understand that the drought and saline intrusion will be unavoidable, only could be mitigated, and from now the people would live together with that as normally in the daily life. It is risky but also creates an opportunity if we knew how to respond to, adapt to, and limit their damage. The Prime Minister again emphasized that all local governments would not let any household to lack fresh water for their daily use; production would be ensured in the new situation and it is required to motivation the agricultural yield, food export, fruit and aquatic products in the Mekong Delta.
Regarding the instant measures, the Prime Minister requested: it was necessary to continue to well do propaganda about the drought and saline intrusion in the dry season to ensure each household could proactively have appropriate solutions based on the motto of "4 measures on site", starting "from the people and local authorities". Every household, entities, and farm owner need to know how to store fresh water for their daily use, production with the spirit of - "taking care of themselves first". The government focused their attention to supporting poor or near - poor families and those with disadvantage.
With the high determination and consensus of the whole political system from the central to local level and the inhabitants of Mekong Delta, the question "When will the Delta not be affected by saline intrusion?" will be not only a demand but also a problem that needs to be solved soon to meet the desire of more than 20 million people in the land of "nine dragons" in the coming period.
Translated by the Department of Foreign Affairs