Assessment of Sediment and Salinity in the Lower Mekong River Basin

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Virginia Tech

The Mekong River Basin (MRB) is famous for its rice farming and export and produces more than 20 million tons of rice per year. Rice production depends on climate, irrigation, soil fertility. However, this region is adversely impacted by several environmental concerns like nutrient deficiency from sediment and saltwater intrusion. The decrease in sediment deposition in the Mekong basin is caused by a number of factors. In China, Lao PDR, and Vietnam, the hydropower generation from dams has improved people's overall living standards, leading in more dams being built or planned in the future. However, dam construction work is adversely impacting the overall salinity condition in this region by reducing upstream flow. Upstream lower flows during the dry season contributes to the increased salinity in the lower Mekong Delta. In addition to these, multiple dams in the upper and middle region of the Mekong basin are trapping sediments and decreasing it in the lower zones. This study found that the reservoirs, built by China between 2008-2015, has reduced the sediment load at all five stations considered in the study. When a reservoir is removed from the model, the sediment load is increased which showed the substantial impact of reservoir construction on sediment load in this area. The landuse pattern is another factor for variability of the sediment yield in the study area. Forest area contributes to higher sediment production whereas agricultural area results in lower sediment yield. The GFDL RCP (4.5) and GFDL RCP (8.5) future climate change projection scenarios used in this study also demonstrated substantial variability in the precipitation pattern for the study region. GFDL RCP (4.5) scenario resulted in a lower sediment yield during the dry season. On contrary to that, GFDL RCP (8.5) showed higher sediment yield due to higher precipitation during the wet season. The severe salinity impact was observed in the Cai Nuoc, Nam Can, and Thanh Phu districts. In Ca Mau province, the observed salinity is highest among the provinces of the study area during dry season (February to May), about 12-14 PPT (parts per thousand) whereas the lowest level of salinity (less than 1 PPT) was observed in the Dong Thap and Vinh Long provinces. This salinity intrusion is adversely impacting the rice production in the study area. In the year 2000, rice production in the Ca Mau province was about 100-150 thousand tons. But salinity intrusion is drastically reducing the rice production in this area, about 10-30thousand tons per year during 2015-2017. Rice production is increasing in the upper deltaic part of the Mekong Delta region where preventive measures were taken.

Anthropogenic Activity, Mekong Delta, Rice Production, Sediment, Salinity