Flooding is not the only water-related climate change impact facing Can Tho. About two thirds of all homes in the city, most of whom are poor and vulnerable, do not have access to piped and treated water.
The water supply here has become increasingly saline, due to rising sea levels and the changing flow of the Mekong River, despite being located 65 km from the sea. Most of what people use is surface river water. They draw on this for drinking and cooking in their homes, and also for their farms. Increased salinity impacts both health and livelihoods.
Photo credit: Lisa Murray for Robin Wyatt Vision
Doan Thanh Tam, who is part of the technical staff at the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, believes the automatic, real-time salinity monitoring system that’s been implemented has proven to be a good first step in protecting people located in high-risk areas.
Supported by The Rockefeller Foundation through the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) initiative and implemented by the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, so far seven monitoring stations have been built to provide a reliable, timely source of information on saline levels.
Through these stations, they are able to collect and monitor data on water quality and salinity, and send out warning SMS messages when required, ensuring that farmers know when the water is unsafe to use on crops and that residents know when they should not use it in their homes.
With combined planning and efforts from the local government and communities, more viable and resilient solutions for specific climate change problems are being created. Together, these amount to a thorough response to the complex challenges the people of Can Tho are facing.
“The system is more effective,” concludes Tam, “so much so that other departments—like agriculture and even communications—want to use our data as well.”
Now that anyone can access the data, it is possible to be responsive in a more holistic sense. “Sending out warnings is just the beginning,” he adds. “Now we are beginning to turn our attention to thinking about more permanent and sustainable solutions.”