A severe drought, believed to have begun last year, was likely to continue till the middle of September throughout central Viet Nam, the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting (NCHMF) reported.
The drought is being blamed on the El Nino phenomenon.
In a number of areas in the region, the prolonged drought could cause a red alert (Level 3) to be issued, the NCHMF said.
On Tuesday, eighteen months after the start of the drought, the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan declared a state of emergency, for the first time in its history, becoming the first province to have so declared. Agencies have described this as the most severe drought in more than two decades.
NCHMF predicted that rainfall in June, July and August could be lower than in previous years in the region. This could lead to the water level of all rivers across the region to be reduced by 30 – 60 per cent from the previous years’ averages.
In fact, officials fear that in southern central provinces the water level could be 60 – 95 per cent lower than normal.
Last month, the water levels of rivers in central coastal and central highland provinces were already recorded as having fallen 30 – 50 percent lower than the usual levels of previous years. A special case is the Cai river in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa Province, where the water level had dropped 90 per cent.
The NCHMF also forecast that this year, rainfall in central Viet Nam would be lower than average levels.
Meanwhile, soaring temperatures in several provinces, especially in the central region, have been recognised as surpassing the historical record set in 1966.
In the central province of Quang Tri, temperature measured 42 degrees Celsius on May 30, which was higher than the 41.7 degrees Celsius recorded in this province in 1983.
Reservoirs dry up
Today, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the south central province of Binh Dinh reported that the total water volume of 161 reservoirs in the province had dropped to 49 percent of their designed capacity, standing at only 286 million cubic metres.
The low water levels of these reservoirs have affected supplies of water available to irrigate 4,628 hectares of crops in the province’s districts of Phu My, Hoai An and Phu Cat, and made life difficult for nearly 8,000 residents.
Nguyen Xuan Phu, an official with the department, said that if, in the next ten days, it did not rain, the total acreage of crops suffering due to the drought would extend to 10,000 hectares, and the number of households lacking water for domestic use would multiply.
Meanwhile, in the central highland province of Gia Lai, the largest reservoir in the Central Highlands – Ayun Ha, water dropped to the ‘dead’ level for half a month, which means no water has been supplied to 13,000 hectares of rice downstream from this reservoir in the southeastern section of the province.
Vo Dinh Phuc, director of Ayun Ha Agricultural Irrigation – Key Canals, a company that provides water to agricultural land in the province, using water from the reservoir, said that this was the second time in the last twelve years that the reservoir’s water level had dropped below the ‘dead’ threshold.
Crops face salt threat
Phuc blamed the prolonged hot spell, low rainfall and also the destruction of vegetation in areas around the reservoirs for the reservoir’s low water level.
Additionally, the prolonged drought, coupled with a lower water table, has made way for seawater to enter upon upstream rivers.
In the northern part of central Ha Tinh Province, thousands of hectares of crops are facing severe water shortages after concentrations of saltwater in the Lam River reached the highest rate in decades.
Head of the province’s Irrigation Division, Ngo Duc Hoi, said that the Trung Luong Water Inlet Sluice, which connects fields and the river, is closed to prevent salt water from entering the fields.
Also, the Director of North Ha Tinh Irrigation Company, Tran Quoc Hung, said 24,000ha of rice in the northern part of the province, including Hong Linh Town, Can Loc District and Thach Ha District, faced severe water shortages as saltwater and low water levels in rivers, streams and reservoirs threatened the rice crops.
Meanwhile, Dang Van Dung, vice head of the Southern Hydro-Meteorological Station, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper yesterday that the wet season arrived between 20 days and one month later than in previous years in several provinces across the nation.
The rainfall at the start of the rainy season, he said, was smaller than the average of previous years.
Last month, rainfall measured just 7mm at the Tri An station in Long An Province, as compared to the average of 162mm during the same month of previous years, a reduction of up to 95 per cent.
The prolonged hot spell hitting the region was also expected to continue while there were longer hours of sunshine, Dung said.
Last month, the southern region had 9-9.3 hours of sunshine per day as compared to the average 6 to 8 hours during previous years.