Ha Noi, Viet Nam — Relevant sectors and localities nationwide have begun implementing measures to fight droughts, forecast to occur on a large scale this year.
Nguyen Dinh Ninh, Deputy Director of the Water Resource Department, said El Nino would affect the whole country, but the southern-central area, Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) and southern regions would be the worst hit with droughts predicted to get more serious than last year.
Water flow in the northern rivers was expected to come down by 15-50 per cent from the average rate, and in the lower part of Red River by as much as 30-50 per cent due to diverting water to the two major hydro-power plants of Hoa Binh and Thac Ba.
While rains, expected around this time in the central-southern area and western Truong Son mountain, have kept away, the drought could stretch to August if it doesnt rain till April.
With the dry season having started last month, and expected to continue till May, 2007, water in the rivers in central, Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) and southern regions was expected to come down by 20-40 per cent, increasing drought and salinity.
The many factors causing droughts include the increasing demand for water, shorter rainy season and longer dry season, and shortage of water for irrigation.
With about 200,000ha of winter-spring rice crop in the northern area facing water shortage, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has urged localities to check the volume of available water, and asked them to carry out rice transplant only in areas having enough water.
Localities have also been urged to closely manage water resources, prevent loss of water, especially in reservoirs, monitor salinity and store water from tides for the winter-spring rice crop.
Ninh said it was necessary to carry out important measures while using water from hydro-electric reservoirs like dredging channels, keeping water-level up in lakes and rivers and continuously pump water discharged from reservoirs.
Though farmers last year faced water shortage for the winter-spring rice crop, thanks to good co-ordination between relevant sectors and localities, the sector had a bumper crop, Ninh said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had recently spent VND21 billion to provide water for the 2006-07 winter-spring rice crop in the northern region. This would be used to dredge some channels in the Bac Hung Hai and Bac Nam Ha irrigation systems and Nhue River for daily life and production.
Provinces along the Hong (Red) River were expected to dredge 17.5 million of cu.m of mud from irrigation channels and ensure water for production since water in the river had come down to the lowest level at 2.3m.
The ministry has also urged localities to take initiatives in mobilising capital for repairing pumps, dredge channels and implement measures to combat drought.
Meanwhile, according to forecast, despite water shortage, northern provinces, including Phu Tho, Bac Giang, Vinh Phuc, Ha Tay and Hung Yen, were expected to harvest about 142,000-242,000ha of rice crop.
Risk of forest fires
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Developments Department for Forest Management, the danger of forest fire was very high during the 2006-07 dry season as rains had kept away from many areas and dry weather was predicted to last long.
Some districts in the province of Son La, Yen Bai, Nghe An, Kon Tum, Gia Lai and Tay Ninh were in danger level 5 for forest fires, an extremely serious condition that could quickly wipe out whole forests.
Deputy Director of the Forestry Management Department Doan Minh Tuan said the department had issued concrete guidelines to combat forest fires to local forest watch teams, especially those in risk areas such as Vo Doi, U Minh Thuong and Phu Quoc national parks in Kien Giang, paper producing area in Kon Tum and Da Lat pine forest in Lam Dong.
There are 142 forest watch stations and 24,340 forest rescue teams nationwide and warning signs have been put up at high risk areas in the forests.
While the forest management sector had asked forest development units to take up the responsibility of protecting forests during the dry season, units owning over 500ha of forest lands would have to establish their own teams to strengthen prevention of forest fires, Tuan said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has made a proposal to the Ministry of Industry to urge the Paper Corporation to implement measures to prevent fires, especially in Kon Tum Province.