Photos by Linh Pham/Getty Images
Text by Ye Charlotte Ming
The Mekong Delta is home to 17 million people and produces more than half of Vietnam's rice harvest. But the "rice bowl" region is also among the most vulnerable to climate change.
The Vietnamese government estimated that 40 percent of the area could be submerged when the sea levels rise by 3 feet in the upcoming decades.
After learning the reports, Hanoi-based photographer Linh Pham went to the coastal districts of Binh Dai and Ba Tri to document its impact. Although the area won’t be submerged entirely soon, Pham said many residents in the low-lying land have already felt the effects of sea-level change.
The encroaching sea leads to saline intrusion in soil and freshwater, forcing farmers to abandon their rice and coconut cultivation. More frequent typhoons and storms will displace millions in the decades to come.
"Many people don't have access to fresh water despite the fact that they live next to the water," Pham said.
Facing a shortage of freshwater, residents result to purchasing water from nearby villages. “It's quite hard to believe that these farmers with an average salary of $200 per month have to spend around $9 to $13 monthly for fresh water, 10 times higher than what I’m paying in the city,” Pham said.
However, being able to afford water doesn’t guarantee access. During drought season, delivery can take three to five days. “People told me that they have tried bathing with salinized water before, then they got itching due to some sort of skin diseases,” Pham said.
With the government’s help, farmers have been transitioning from growing crops to shrimp farming, but the region still faces economic uncertainty and displacement as the weather is predicted to become more extreme.
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