August 20, 2009 / 4:25 AM / 8 years ago

Mekong Delta may be inundated by rising sea

<p>A Vietnam farmer places fertilizer on a rice field, August 17, 2005.Kham</p>

HANOI (Reuters) - More than a third of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where nearly half of the country's rice is grown, will be submerged if sea levels rise by 1 meter (39 inches), an environment ministry scenario predicted.

A sea level increase of that magnitude would also inundate a quarter of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's biggest city and home to more than 6 million people, according to the extreme scenario, outlined in the newspaper Tuoi Tre on Thursday.

Environmental scientists have long listed Vietnam, with its lengthy coastline and vast swathes of low-lying ground, as one of the most vulnerable countries on earth to climate change.

Vietnam is the world's second-biggest rice exporter after Thailand. This year it could ship a record volume of 7 million tonnes.

The inundation scenario was part of a report based on greenhouse gas and sulfur dioxide emission projections that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment forwarded this week to a deputy prime minister for approval as the basis for planning to reduce the effects of climate change, another newspaper said.

It laid out three scenarios outlining the possible impact of climate change on Vietnam, and would use the middle scenario as the base line for planning, Thanh Nien Daily said.

According to that scenario, sea levels could rise by 30 cm (12 inches) compared with the 1980-1999 period by the middle of this century and reach 75 cm (30 inches) by 2100, a brief report on the ministry's website said.

A 75 cm rise in sea levels would swamp 20 percent of the Mekong Delta and 10 percent of Ho Chi Minh City, it said.

Temperature increases would also potentially damage agriculture and forestry, in the coffee-growing Central Highlands, for example, the newspaper said, quoting Tran Thuc, director of the ministry's Institute for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment.

Vietnam is the world's largest exporter of robusta beans.

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Alan Raybould

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