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May 15, 2015

Vietnam

Shrimp Ponds Replacing Rice Fields and Other News

 

In Bac Lieu Province, most of the rice fields have been converted to shrimp ponds as droughts and rising oceans have increased the areas with brackish water, which favors shrimp farming.

 

“Ten years ago this area was all rice fields,” Ngo Van Dong, 56, said.  “We can make more money this way.”  Ngo cleared five acres of rice fields to make seven shrimp ponds.  “I’m trying to buy more land to expand, but no one is selling.

 

Bac Lieu has prospered from shrimp farming, but for aquaculturists along the coastline shrimp farming is much more precarious.  Do Thi Dieu started shrimp farming 15 years ago.  She says the water in her shrimp ponds is becoming too salty.  “Before, even in the dry season, there was some rain, but now there is none.  It’s lasting longer than it used to,” Dieu said.  “In the dry season, the salt content is sometimes too high for shrimp to develop well.”

 

Shrimp farming is expensive and is usually only an option for wealthier farmers who can afford the high cost of dredging land and buying equipment.  Shrimp farming also comes with its share of ecological problems.  The land closer to the sea in Bac Lieu Province used to be mangrove forests, but it was cleared to make way for the shrimp farms.

 

“Vietnam had about 60 percent mangrove forest loss during the last 70 years,” said Le Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Climate Change.  “Vietnam’s mangrove forest areas fell from 408,500 hectares in 1943 to 189,200 hectares in 2000, and just 168,688 hectares in 2013.”

 

Mangroves are important habitats for a vast array of plant and animal species.  They also absorb carbon dioxide, helping to regulate greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  And they provide crucial barriers against coastal erosion, storm surges, and sea level rise.

 

“Mangrove forests are buffer belts that reduce the magnitude of sea tides to the delta floodplains.”  Tuan said.  “Thick mangrove forests can also effectively reduce sea winds that push saltwater inland.”

 

Vietnam is going to need all the coastal protection it can get.  The country experiences six to eight typhoons annually, and they could become more extreme as the impacts of climate change intensify over the coming decades.

 

In 2012, floods swept away all the shrimp in Do Thi Dieu’s ponds.  “In the last three years the water levels have risen, and it’s breaking our dykes and flooding our houses and shrimp ponds,” Dieu told said.  “If climate change is to affect us, we will leave.”

 

Source: Vice News. Meet the Mekong Delta Rice Farmers Who Are on the Frontline of Sea Level Rise.  May 13, 2015.

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