http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2009/04/Vietnam_s_Mekong_Delta

The Mekong Delta is sinking

The Mekong Delta (known as Vietnam’s Rice Bowl after the large amount of rice farmed there) is the third largest in the world and is subsiding at rate that is putting millions of people and hectares of farmland at risk.

Research discussed in the journal Science by environmental scientist Nguyen Hieu Trung of Vietnam’s Can Tho University indicates that the Mekong Delta is sinking by as much as 4.7 cm a year; at a height above sea level of 2 m, this is a significant subsidence. It puts local people at risk of flooding and other threats.

But what is causing this? The main culprit, as usual, is human development. Since the 1980s, over 1 million wells have been drilled for drinking and agriculture. This lowers the level of the water table, and the land above it alongside. shrimp farmers are also pumping copious amounts of water into brackish ponds, which compact the ground sediment, lowering the land level further.

All is not lost, however! A consortium of scientists from Vietnam and the Netherlands (another country known for its low elevation) are coming together to launch the $1m Rise and Fall project, which will investigate the caused of the subsidence, and work towards solutions to reverse it.

Read more at Science and Future Earth.

Image credit: ESA

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