Water shortages warned as reservoirs run dry

The national irrigation department has reported a staggeringly low level of water reserves in northern and central regions, signalling the threat of a severe drought in 2020.

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Hoa Binh reservoir (Photo: VNA)

According to the latest survey by the General Department of Irrigation conducted in December, water levels in several reservoirs in the northern delta had fallen to 62.2 percent of their total capacity.

By the time reservoirs start releasing water for farmers to prepare to plant their winter-spring rice crops in less than two weeks, reservoirs would be at 58 percent of capacity, equivalent to 9.51 billion cubic metres.

That would leave the northern delta short of more than seven million cubic metres of water, the irrigation department warned.

The central region, which is also preparing to plant crops, is in the same situation.

Some reservoirs in the northern part of the region had fallen to 66 percent capacity, reported the irrigation department.

Meanwhile, water reserves in reservoirs in the south had dropped to as low as 49 percent.

Water reserves in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces – two localities most vulnerable to drought in Vietnam – were barely higher than in 2015 by 6 to 9 percent, according to the department.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) held an emergency meeting at the end of December, 2019, to examine the drought outlook for the upcoming crop season and 2020, and come up with solutions to alleviate the impacts of the expected drought.

Department of Crops Director Nguyen Nhu Cuong said at the meeting that up to 7,400ha of fields in the north would “face problems accessing water”, with Hanoi, Bac Ninh, Vinh Phuc and Phu Tho most affected.

The irrigation department warned that the northern part of the central region would be vulnerable to drought in some areas during the winter-spring crop season with between 4,500 and 9,000ha short of water.

Forecasts for the south were bleaker as irrigation officials believed some areas would suffer small-scale droughts in the winter-spring season and mild or severe droughts in the summer-autumn season.

Unfavourable weather conditions offered little hope of alleviating the water shortage as total rainfall in the first six months of 2020 was forecast at 30-60mm a month, according to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

The outlook has become so tense that Vietnam Electricity (EVN) has urged MARD to publicly announce the water shortage and work on solutions to adapt to the drought.

EVN, which operates several hydroelectric power plants in the north and central regions, is under great pressure to maintain power supplies.

Agriculture Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong demanded all localities affected by the drought to develop detailed plans to ensure sufficient water for their crops.

Hanoi, one of the localities to be hardest hit, has already mapped out a plan to install more permanent pumping stations as well as seasonal pumps along the Hong (Red) River, said Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Chu Phu My.

The city is also considering switching to crops that consumed less water to prepare for the drought, he said.

VNA