Mekong Delta fights for survival amidst climate change and unbridled development

16 Aug 2017 Ferado

VIETNAM: At a glance, Green Farm looks like any other shrimp farm. The 35-hectare facility is divided up into 46 ponds, between 1 and 1.5 metres deep, aerated by turbines that run around the clock. The shrimps are separated by species and size and some of the ponds are left empty whilst they are cleaned.

The shrimps at Green Farm do not, however, grow in the same way as those in most of the farms dotted across the Mekong Delta, in the south of Vietnam. At Green Farm, antibiotics cannot be used, the waste water cannot be released without being treated, and the company has to trace the origin of the raw materials used in the feed given to the shrimps, along with a wide range of other standards that have to be met for sustainable certification by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). The company was ASC certified in September 2016.

The requirements are strict and the costs higher, but certification had become crucial to the survival of Stapimex, the company that owns Green Farm, in a sector hard hit by the changes in climate patterns in the region, as well as the pollution that has built up over the decades due to the excesses of various industries. “We wanted a business that was sustainable in the long term,” explains Nguyen Dang Khoa, quality manager at the company. “You can also earn more by investing more money,” he says.

Since it came into being, the Mekong River has been depositing the sediments collected over its 4000-kilometre journey at its mouth, making the delta one of the most fertile and biodiversity-rich regions in the world. Conscious of this wealth, the Vietnamese have concentrated a large share of their national production in the region, which is home to 50 per cent of its rice production and 70 per cent of its aquaculture, for example, and accounts for a third of GDP, according to World Bank figures. Over 18 million people, a fifth of the country’s population, live in between the many branches into which the Mekong divides.

Following the economic reforms launched in 1986, production in the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sectors was intensified, and the pesticides, fertilizers and waste from the farms ended up in the waters of the Mekong, along with the household waste.

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