Mekong Delta forests face increasing risk of fires

18 March 2020

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VIETNAM – HCM City – All forests south of the Hau River in the Mekong Delta have been facing the threat of fire since the middle of this month, and any fire would spread very quickly because of the heat and low humidity, local authorities have warned.

The region comprises An Giang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Kien Giang, Soc Trang, and Hau Giang provinces.

In Ca Mau, more than 43,580ha of forests in the U Minh Ha National Park, Hon Khoai and Hon Chuoi islands face the fourth and fifth fire warning levels.

If the current weather continues, the warning level for all forests in U Minh Ha, Hon Khoai and Hon Chuoi islands will rise to five, the highest, according to the province Forest Protection Sub-department.

In An Giang, the threat is at level five for 7,000ha of its 17,000ha of forests, mostly in Thoai Son, Tri Ton and Tinh Bien districts and Chau Doc city, according to the Forest Protection Sub-department.

Early this month a fire damaged six hectares of forest on Cam Mountain in Tinh Bien district.

Kien Giang province has had six forest fires caused by people burning fields since the beginning of the dry season, which damaged dozens of hectares.

It has more than 41,500ha facing a high threat of fires, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Hoang Van Tuan, deputy director of the department, said the threat would continue to escalate because of the lack of water and heat.

All forests on Phu Quoc island face warning level five, he said, adding that the dry sedge fields in Giang Thanh district are susceptible to fire.

Before the dry season began authorities in the delta, which comprises Can Tho city and 12 provinces, took several measures like buying firefighting facilities and storing water in forests. They also made fire breaks in forests, built more watch towers and closed down forests with high warning levels.

An Giang has a number of plans to protect forests. Its rangers and communes have disseminated information about forest fire prevention and control and have installed firefighting facilities.

Truong Minh Hung, deputy head of its Forest Protection Sub-department, said: “The sub-department … regularly monitors forest fire – prone areas.”

Ca Mau province has 337 officials working around the clock in forests and mobilised nearly 2,000 members of the public for firefighting.

Le Van Hai, head of its Forest Protection Sub-department, said the province had built dams and closed sluices to store water in forests.

It had organised training courses in preventing and controlling forest fires for forest owners, bought more firefighting facilities and upgraded and built new watch towers, he added.

Forest development

The delta has 347,000ha of mangrove forests, cajuput forests, bird sanctuaries, and nature reserves. The forests play an important role in the delta’s socio-economic development, ecology and tourism.

According to Tran Anh Thu, deputy chairman of the An Giang People’s Committee, the province’s forests are invaluable since they are linked to pilgrimages.

Tourism sites on Cam, Sam, Co To, and Tuong Mountains and in the Tra Su cajuput forest attract a large number of visitors.

To protect forests, delta authorities have allocated large areas to local residents for harvesting. This has both helped forests to develop and locals to earn a living and an incentive to protect them.

Tran Van Lun, who has received 4.8ha in Kien Giang’s An Minh District, said the forest provided him with his livelihood.

He earns around 60 million VND (2,600 USD) a year from harvesting wood, fish and crops he grows in the forest.

The delta provinces have afforested coastal areas in recent years to cope with climate change and prevent erosion.

Kien Giang is carrying out afforestation in 2016-20 to develop mangrove forests.

Nguyen Van Tam, director of its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said when the projects are completed, they would help mitigate coastal erosion and improve people’s lives./.

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