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Saigon Is Now Part of Vietnam's Water Crisis

The water salinization crisis which has plagued Mekong Delta cities since February is now making its way into Saigon households.

Currently in the midst of its worst drought in nearly a century, the Mekong Delta has lost 140,000 hectares of farmland in the past several months. The region's saltwater intrusion is already the most expensive weather-related disaster in Vietnam's history, costing the national government roughly 4% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), or US$6.7 billion.

That figure is about to get worse, it seems, as Thanh Nien reports the salinization of both the Saigon and Dong Nai Rivers is compromising Saigon Water Company's (Sawaco) ability to draw water from its two main sources.

Since January 25, high salt concentrations have forced Sawaco to halt water collection from the two rivers on 15 occasions. The company caps its salt concentrations at no more than 250mg per liter, however readings as high as 366mg per liter have appeared in recent weeks, prompting Sawaco's Tan Hiep plant to cut its capacity by half, according to Sawaco Deputy General Director Bui Thanh Giang.

To compensate for Tan Hiep's decreased operations, the company has stepped up output at another plant which sources water from Cu Chi District's Dong Canal, however if saltwater levels in the Saigon River continue to rise, Tan Hiep will be forced to cease its collection for 12 hours a day, leading to potential water shortages in the city.

To make matters worse, the Southern Hydrometeorological Center believes saltwater intrusion will worsen in the coming weeks, while southern Vietnam's drought is expected to last until June. Experts such as Dr. Le Huy Ba, former director of an environment institute at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry, are encouraging government officials to build more water reservoirs as a solution to this issue.

[Photo via Flickr user Emily]

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