Wisma ELM, HELP University – The Centre for Development Studies, 25 May – At a recent lunchtime seminar, visiting guest speaker, Timothy Gorman, shared his findings on the cumulative impact of climate change affecting the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Having spent two years conducting fieldwork in Vietnam, Mr. Gorman spoke about how popular Vietnamese folk culture tends to romanticise the delta as an idyllic pastoral landscape whereas for Americans, particularly of his parents’ generation, the delta evokes memories of the war and of Viet Cong guerrillas. He then proceeded to talk about the agricultural importance of the Mekong Delta by explaining to the audience about why the Mekong Delta is the essential rice bowl of Vietnam as well as countries like Cambodia and Laos.
However, there are current environment issues and climate change plaguing the delta today that could severely hamper rice production in the Mekong Delta. Mr. Gorman said that issues such as drought and increased saltwater in the banks of the delta has begun to threaten the rice crops production cycle. He pointed out that one of the ongoing cause of these issues are due to the building of dams in China, Cambodia and Laos, which has severely cut of the natural flow of fresh water into Mekong. Without the input of fresh water, explained Mr. Gorman, the rise of salt or saline water is slowly effecting the production quality of rice crops.
Mr. Gorman explained how the government has started implementing their own Infrastructure-Based Adaptation initiative by installing dykes to help regulate the water levels in the delta itself. These dykes can be found along the coast of the Mekong Delta whereas the government has taken to building canals to help regulate the flow of fresh water better. These adaptive initiatives programmes, said Mr. Gorman, are meant to help maintain the self-sufficiency policy subsidies of the region. Not only does the government provide subsidies to rice farmers but they will also receive monetary returns.
However, these rice plantation have been restrictive to just agriculture practises and due to the prevailing climate and even political changes in the country has caused Vietnam to shift its focus from agriculture to aquaculture, namely the farming of tiger and white-leg shrimp. Mr Gorman stated that since aquaculture was introduced in the Mekong Delta, the government is now debating whether or not to cut the rice production or continue to support the shrimp farming industry.