Climate change and dams force older residents to leave Vietnam’s Mekong Delta

At 63, Nguyen Thi Ngoc got her first full-time ‘company’ job as a security guard in Ho Chi Minh City. She’d never been to a city before taking the job in early 2021, but the former farmer, originally from the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, is indifferent to the urban bustle of the country’s second largest city.

“I come here to work, make some money, not to play around,” she says, sitting outside the semi-abandoned housing complex that she guards. “In the past six months, the only place I have visited is the market.”

Around six years ago, Nguyen and her husband gave up their farm in Tien Giang province, on the Mekong Delta. Faced with increasing saltwater intrusion, they had switched from growing rice to cultivating more salt-tolerant pineapples. But even this was not enough. Yields had been falling for a few seasons, then in 2016 the water in their local canals – which connect with the Mekong River – became so salty that even the pineapple plants couldn’t cope, and they stopped bearing fruit.

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Nhung Nguyen