Dong Thap Province in southern Vietnam has declared a state of emergency as the Tien River, one of the main offshoots of the Mekong, is threatening to engulf more than 200 houses.
Erosion hotspots have been spotted along 210 meters of the river bank in Binh Thanh Commune. The National Highway 30, running east to the neighboring province Tien Giang, is also in danger.
Local authorities have been asked to put up warning signs and make sure they are well prepared to evacuate residents when necessary.
The cost to relocate at-risk families and protect the highway could reach VND60 billion, said Nguyen Thanh Hung, the province’s deputy chairman.
He said, to deal with the erosion in Binh Thanh, the province needs more than VND200 billion (US$8.76 million), adding that the problem is spreading to other neighborhoods and requires assistance from the central government.
Dong Thap Province has spent VND9 billion ($400,000) fixing the banks of the Tien River since erosion ate into more than 25 meters of land in 2014. But the money has not fixed the problem.
Over two thousand households in the province are now residing well within the so-called “erosion belt,” comprising areas at risk of collapsing into the river. A VND900 billion (US$40.1 million) plan to save the areas has been submitted to the government by local authorities.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, every year the Mekong Delta, the country’s fruit and rice basket, loses 500 hectares of land because of sea and river erosion.
It is estimated that by 2050, the lives of one million people in the delta will be directly affected by this silent catastrophe.
The Ministry of Construction recently submitted a proposal to the central government to build concrete barriers to protect 44,800 families in the region from serious river erosion.
Experts have identified the main reason for the problem as the increasing number of dams upstream which have caused the water level to change, blocked sediment and reduced biodiversity in the Mekong Delta.
Just last week, 16 houses in An Giang collapsed into a river, leaving residents trembling. The province has already declared a state of emergency as erosion is still threatening to destroy around 100 others.