Dams, Sand, Rice: The Life and Possible Death of the Mekong Delta

What would Vietnam be without the Mekong Delta?

Envisioning such a reality is difficult, but it is entirely possible that this will come to pass, albeit long after anyone reading this in 2020 is dead.

The delta is Vietnam’s most vital agricultural region, producing 50% of the country’s rice, including almost all rice for export, 65% of aquaculture products and 70% of fruit, according to government figures. It is also home to over 20 million people.

Fed by the Mekong River, which tumbles down nearly 15,000 feet of elevation on its way from the vertiginous Tibetan Plateau to Vietnam, the delta is one of the world’s great natural systems. Over the last 6,000 years, sediment carried by the river created the delta, with land pushing into the sea at an average rate of 16 meters a year. The region is known as Cửu Long in Vietnamese, or Nine Dragons, for the nine major river distributaries that flow through it.

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Michael Tatarski