Tra Su wetlands in the Mekong delta losing its biodiversity due to drought

Three large rivers flow through the Mekong delta province of An Giang in Vietnam: the Hau, Tien and Vam Co Rivers. The entire province is dotted by a number of seasonally flooded small islands. The delta province’s rivers, canals, and rich wetlands forests have proved attractive for tourism with about 6.2 million people visiting An Giang every year.

The province mainly promotes “agro-tourism” that is based on the province’s wetlands and its fishing and farming culture and practices including weaving and the fruit and vegetable gardens. But the most well-known tourist attraction is the province’s Tra Su wetland forests.

The Tra Su wetland forests cover more than 850 hectares. The wetlands holds an extraordinary range of biodiversity of plants, fish, and wetland birds and animals such as storks, herons, egrets, snakes, turtles and many kinds of bats.

There are at least two bird species in the Tra Su wetlands that feature in the Red Book of Vietnam as endangered or conservation species: The painted stork (Giang Sen; Mycteria leucocephala) and the oriental darter (Dieng Dieng; Anhinga melanogaster).

More importantly, the Tra Su wetlands are crucial for the livelihoods of the local communities in the area. Local people depend on the wetlands for fisheries and income from tourism. There are a number of home-made products made mainly by the women such as woven baskets and cakes that are sold to the tourists.

However, in recent years, the Tra Su wetlands are being damaged by water shortages. Even during the main flooding season of the Mekong River, the water level in the wetlands have been very low. From the middle of August, the Mekong River begins to flood due to the annual rains, and the wetlands fill with water, alluvial silt and migrating fish species.

But in 2015, this seasonal flooding season did not occur. With low water levels, many parts of the wetlands are drying out exposing the roots of the vegetation. The ongoing, extended drought in the Mekong region is having serious impacts on the wetlands and subsequently, on the local livelihoods of more than 10,000 people in An Giang province.

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