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06/10/2022 - 14:37

Sustainable sand management helps reduce climate change impacts on Mekong Delta

A project on enhancing sustainable sand management in the Mekong Delta, carried out by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Vietnam, has helped mitigate impacts of climate change on the region.

Sand mining (Photo: VNA)

The information was heard at a working session between representatives from the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research (SIWRR), WWF Vietnam, and the People’s Committee of Mekong Delta Can Tho city on October 5.

SIWRR Deputy Director Nguyen Nghia Hung said riverbed sand is an essential resource for socio-economic development needs. Especially in the Mekong Delta, it is much exploited and used as construction materials and in leveling.

However, sand mining in this region is facing challenges such as a decrease in the annual amount of sand due to the impact of upstream dam construction; climate change; overexploitation causing ecological imbalance; river geomorphological instability; and uncontrolled downstream landslides, erosion and sedimentation, Hung noted.

At the working session between representatives from the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research, WWF Vietnam, and People’s Committee of Can Tho city (Photo: VNA)

According to WFF-Vietnam, in recent years, the resilience of the Delta has been heavily impacted by human activities, including upstream hydropower dams and sand mining in its main and distributary channels. Between 2018 and 2020, sand mining within the Mekong Delta's channels was reported at 17.77 Mt per year - far more than the 6.18 Mt flowing into the Delta each year.

As a result of this unsustainable activity, the Mekong's riverbanks and coastal zones are eroding, and half a million people are placed at risk of losing their homes. There has also been a reduction in diversity and abundance of fish in mined areas, as well as changes to riverside vegetation. Climate change worsens the effects of unsustainable sand mining on the Delta with increased droughts, heavier rains, and unprecedented sea-level rise.

Started in 2019 and set to end in 2023, the project's goal is to contribute to maintaining key ecological functions and reducing socio-economic vulnerability to climate change in the Mekong Delta.

The project aims at establishing a delta-wide sand budget to create a better understanding of the scope and impact of unsustainable extraction rates.

It also intends to work with key players in the public and private sectors to develop and propose better policies and practices such as the River Geomorphological Stability Plan in relation to sustainable sand and stone mining, and it uses public outreach to raise awareness of the need for action to counter the impacts of unsustainable sediment exploitation in the Delta.

Furthermore, the project is expected to promote participation and dialogues among key players in the Vietnamese construction sector, whom it provides with information on the risks associated with sand mining and opportunities for sustainable alternative sourcing to river sand and stone./.