Thursday May 9, 2024

Yale Environment 360

We depart from Can Tho, the bustling heart of Vietnam’s Mekong River delta, before sunrise, heading south to an aquaculture farm in coastal Cà Mau province. The farm, I’m told, showcases how farmers in the delta are preserving scarce freshwater during the intensely hot dry season.

A drive of several hours takes us through what is known as the country’s “rice bowl” and its aquaculture epicenter. Most striking to a visitor is how nearly every inch of land here is cultivated or built upon. Homes abut shrimp farms, and workers load Melaleuca tree trunks onto trucks. Narrow roads parallel a crisscross of canals constructed for irrigation and transportation.

But all is far from well in what, at first glance, looks like an agricultural paradise. Most of the waterways are dried out, their mud bottoms exposed and cracked. This isn’t unusual in the dry season, but those fissures have grown more visible with each passing year, symbolizing the deepening fractures stressing this region, which is home to 20 million people.

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