Vietnam’s construction of four bridges that will allow for quicker recession of Mekong River floodwaters has Takeo provincial officials concerned about dry-season rice production in their area.
Takeo Governor Kep Chutema said that after noticing an “unusual” decline in this year’s flood levels, he sent a water resource official to investigate in the neighboring An Giang province in Vietnam earlier this month.
Bun Hour, the emissary, reported that Vietnam had been constructing bridges across flood plains previously dammed by built-up roads. Where little drainage had been allowed through narrow aqueducts, massive runoff now should be unimpeded and directed to Vietnamese irrigation systems downstream.
“In Vietnam they have very good irrigation systems for distributing water, but we are still far behind,” Bun Hour said.
Floodwaters in Takeo province, which rose a month late this year due to drought, flowed back into Vietnam via canals built by the European Union in Angkor Borei district, Bun Hour said.
Ith Sarun, Takeo’s provincial agriculture director, said that another cause for this year’s rapid run-off was a 350-meter-wide break in a road, which also served as a levee, in Koh Andet district. The road has since been repaired.
Bun Hour suggested that a dam constructed along the Vietnam border should be considered. He acknowledged that such a project would be impossible because of its astronomical expense, but maintained that better irrigation was required to sustain Takeo’s farmers.
Kep Chutema agreed, saying, “Water is of the most importance for farmers. Where there is water, there will be seen an improvement in people’s living standards.”
Bun Hour said that three reservoirs, which should hold water to irrigate thousands of hectares of rice fields, will be built in 2003 with a $1 million grant from the World Bank. Other reservoirs valued at $1.3 million have been proposed, he said.
Kep Chutema said his province is planning to cultivate 60,000 hectares for the dry season in hopes of compensating for losses taken during the rainy season.
Recently, unexpected heavy rainfalls have eased fears, but they also destroyed two dams in Prey Kabbas and Donkeo districts. Takeo authorities said they are instructing farmers and officials to monitor and reinforce existing reservoirs.
Bun Hour said that a program for sustainable water use organized by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology had failed because farmers did not want to pay dues to ensure they could irrigate their crops.