The Mekong Delta, Vietnam's agriculture hub, needs $4.7 to $6.7 billion in 2021-2025 for smart projects to tackle climate change, the World Bank says.
A report released by the bank last week says there are considerable opportunities for further development of the Mekong Delta region, which spans 3.94 million hectares (9.7 acres) and is home to 17.5 million people, or a fifth of the country’s population.
A farmer walks on her cracked field due to severe drought in Ben Tre Province in the Mekong Delta, March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
However, the government needs to address several challenges the region has been facing, including inadequate infrastructure and market access, fluctuations in water availability, weak inter-provincial coordination, pollution, energy constraints and, especially, climate change impacts.
The Mekong Delta is identified as one of the deltas in the world that is most vulnerable to climate change, the report says. According to the 2016 climate change projections issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, approximately 40 percent of the region is exposed to significant inundation risk under current conditions.
By 2050, as much as 60-75 percent of some provinces in the region may be inundated. Erratic rainfall and salinity intrusion into groundwater sources will also make domestic freshwater supply less reliable. In addition, infrastructure will be exposed to increased tropical storm intensity, long-term sea level rise, and rapid fluvial and coastal flooding.
"Promoting and sustaining growth in the Mekong Delta will require rethinking future development pathways for the region. Currently, development of the region is poorly coordinated with fragmented and discordant sectoral policies and investment decisions that result in inefficiencies and hidden costs including from negative environmental externalities," the World Bank report says.
Experts from the World Bank urge Vietnam to adopt policies and investments better to optimize the use of natural conditions that define the delta in an effort to mitigate negative impact from climate change.
The Mekong Delta will need to incentivize use of available public financing for more climate smart investments and mobilize additional financing to improve: infrastructure for restructuring agriculture in subregions of the delta; flood protection infrastructure; nature-based and human-engineered infrastructure for river and coastal area erosion protection; and monitoring stations, they say.
In 2016, the World Bank approved a $310 million loan to help Vietnam tackle climate change and ensure sustainable livelihoods of local residents in the delta.
For decades, the delta has been a Vietnam's rice bowl and aquaculture hub, meeting not only the country's food demand but also serving exports.
But it has suffered severe drought, erosion and flooding in recent years.
Several studies over the last decade have predicted that the Mekong Delta, which spreads over 40,577 square kilometers (over 10 million acres) and is currently home to 21.49 million people, would soon sink as sea level rises in the future, partly due to the climate crisis.