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Scientists have once again raised their concerns about water security in the Mekong Delta, saying that hydropower dams on the Mekong River's upper course as well as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia’s plans to divert the river are the biggest threats.

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Le Anh Tuan, deputy head of the Can Tho University’s Research Institute for Climate Change, said the Mekong Delta is facing six challenges: climate change; population increase and migration; natural resources overexploitation; environmental degradation; hydropower dams; and Mekong diversion plans implemented by Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Read more: Hydropower dams, water diversion threaten Mekong Delta's water security

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Viet Nam risks a loss of 7.2 million tonnes of rice yield and 3.2 per cent of its agricultural land by the late 21st century as a result of climate change, according to a Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development forecast.

Part of a protected forest in the southernmost province of Ca Mau risks being swept away as a result of drought, salt water intrusion and sea level rise.

The forecast was delivered yesterday in Ha Noi at a conference on responsive activities to climate change in the agricultural sector in the context of implementing the Paris Climate Accord.

Do Xuan Lan, head of the ministry’s Department of Science, Technology and Environment, said the country’s food security and sustainable agricultural development are already seriously affected by the negative impact of climate change.

In the past 15 years, flooding has increased along with complicated erosion of river banks, estuaries and coastal areas. Natural disasters have contributed to destruction of the environment, living conditions, and socio-economic activities, he said.

Reports from the ministry’s Water Resource Directorate show that natural disasters in recent years have resulted in the deaths of 300 people and caused losses of roughly US$900 million annually, accounting for 1.5 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Natural disaster prevention measures have shown good results in reducing loss of life and property. The average number of dead or missing, which reached an annual average of 478 people between 2006 and 2011, has decreased to 226 between 2012 and 2015. Most of the recent tropical storms have not led to deaths at sea.

However, climate change has been extreme and unpredictable. Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hoang Van Thang, said unsustainable socio-economic development activities, such as deforestation and illegal sand mining, have contributed to the negative effects of natural disasters.

In recent years, extreme natural disasters such as super storms, typhoons in the East Sea, droughts, prolonged salinity intrusion, torrential floods and riverside landslides have affected lives and agricultural production, especially in coastal and mountainous areas.

Therefore, Thang said, agricultural cultivation must be linked to the protection of ecological systems and sustainable development.

Read more: Climate change forecast to shrink rice yield

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IUCN Vietnam

Like other shrimp farmers here in this lush, canal-lined province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, Nguyen Van A can instantly rattle off the precise percentage of saltwater in which crustaceans grow best. And at the moment, he insists with a smile, everybody knows that Ben Tre Province has the best brackish water in the world.

Read more: Solutions and Innovations Vietnam’s response to climate change? A shrimp and mangrove cocktail

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