Losing Land and Livelihood to Climate Change

Linh Pham/Getty Images

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.

 
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Vo Van Phuong, 54, looks at his neighbor's destroyed cafe from his clam guard hut next to the seafront on April 29, 2017 in Bao Thuan Village, Ba Tri District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam. Phuong said he got to move this hut closer in land every year due to the rising sea level.
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Tran Van Tinh, 34, waters his winter melon field with water with acceptable level of salt taken from his digged well on April 29, 2017 in Tan Thuy Village, Ba Tri District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam. He said the water at his village luckily has acceptale level of salt because the village locates 5km away from the sea.

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.

 
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A fisherman takes a break at his boat on a sanlinizated canal in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam.
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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.

 
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Tran Van Tam, 31, pumps salt water into his piece of land to turn it into a shrimp farm in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam. 
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Staff from a beach restaurant prepare food using fresh water buying from the water truck on April 28, 2017 in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam.
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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.

 
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APRIL 28: Phan Van Thu, 52 - A water truck driver, delivers fresh water he bought from nearby village to his clients house in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam.

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.

 
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A woman checks the fresh water she just bought on April 28, 2017 in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam.
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SNguyen Thanh Nhat, 39, a water truck driver, pumps fresh water from his truck to client's storages on April 28, 2017 in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam.

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.

 
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Muoi 'Cua', 61 - A farmer takes a shower with fresh water bying from the water truck on April 28, 2017 in Thua Duc Village, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam.

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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