It’s not just melting glaciers that endanger the Mekong and its region

The Interpreter –

Recent reports of a rapid diminishment in the size of the glaciers that feed the great rivers of Asia, including the Mekong, have received wide coverage, not least because they are accompanied by striking visuals.

What is happening at the other end of the river in the Mekong Delta has garnered much less attention. But it may well be that the river’s vast and productive delta will be where the more immediate effects of changes to the Mekong will first become apparent. And for a country such as Vietnam, the Mekong Delta provides in excess of 50% of its agricultural GDP.

I was alerted to the latest information in a disturbing VOA report from earlier this year with its suggestion that the delta could disappear entirely by the end of the century. The report is largely based on research carried out at Utrecht University in the Netherlands which draws attention to the rapid subsidence and reduction in the size of the delta’s land area due to excessive pumping out of underlying water reserves. This is a process of great concern when the prospect of rising sea levels due to climate change is likely to accelerate the steady increase in saltwater intrusion that has been occurring for decades.

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