Mekong Delta suffering from climate change

BANGKOK - A new study on Climate Change Impact and Adaptation in the Lower Mekong Basin released on March 29 has revealed that the effects of climate change in the basin is worse than the global average.

Final results of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded study, that were released at a regional workshop in Bangkok, indicate that changes in climate will likely trigger decreases in yields and in the suitability of key commercial and staple crops of the region.

The basic staple crop of the region - the rain-fed rice - would see a significant decrease in yield in seven out of eight provinces across the region that had been identified by the study as "hot spots."

These included two provinces of Vietnam in Gia Lai in the Central Highlands and Kien Giang in the Mekong Delta.

The study- that falls under USAID's Lower Mekong Initiative - down scaled the global climate models for this region that is not only highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change but also significantly dependent on its natural resources for livelihoods.

Apart from detailing climate projections and trends, the study examined how changes in temperature and rainfall would affect land suitability and species productivity for a range of livelihood sectors.

Speaking at the workshop, lead author of the study, Dr. Jeremy Carew-Reid of the International Center for Environmental Management, said: "We've found that this region is going to experience climate extremes in temperature and rainfall beyond anything that we expected."

The study projected that the annual average temperature in some parts of the Lower Mekong Basin, including the eastern plains of Cambodia and Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) of Vietnam, would increase by 4 to 6 degrees Celsius by 2050.

This figure, which is two or three times higher than the so-called "critical threshold" of 2 degrees Celsius, makes a climate catastrophe a realistic possibility.

The region is projected to have drier dry seasons that start earlier and wetter wet season which start later. Changes will be greatest in the wet season and the areas that will experience greatest change include the Sekong, Sesan and Sre Pok catchment area of eastern Cambodia and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam and Cambodia.

While hotter climate and higher rainfalls may trigger shifts in crop suitability around the region, some areas in higher altitudes, such as northern Thailand or northern Lao, would be better adapted and will be able to grow a number of industrial crops such as rubber, Robusta coffee and cassava.

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