The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is sinking. Can sediment save it?
In Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, home to about 17 million people, large areas of land have been poldered for the cultivation of crops such as rice and shrimp. At the moment, the delta is on average less than a meter above sea level. But due to accelerated land subsidence, mainly caused by groundwater extraction, a shortage of river sediment, and rising sea levels, researchers from Wageningen University & Research and Utrecht University predict that by 2050 large parts of the delta will have fallen below sea level if nothing changes soon. What can Vietnam do to stay above water?
Using new computer models, the researchers looked at how the delta will develop over the next 30 years, taking into account predictions for land subsidence, sea-level rise and sediment shortages. “We saw that the delta will likely sink very fast compared to sea level,” says Frances Dunn, researcher at Utrecht University and one of the two authors of the new study, which was published in Nature Communications Earth and Environment earlier this week.