Vietnam: Mangrove loss and erosion

Tuoi Tre, Thanh Nien News 11 Jan 08;

Ca Mau, Vietnam's southernmost province, is being eaten by the sea and is shrinking by dozens of meters each year.

The province is bordered on three sides by the East Sea and Thailand Bay. Five years ago, you could enjoy the beautiful view as you walked along a coastal path.

The one-kilometer-long, four-meter-wide rock path, protected by a stable rock dike, was bordered by a dense forest of mangroves containing highland-style stilt houses where you could rest or hide from the sun.

But the dike and the path are now gone and the sea laps at the ladders of stilt houses.

The tourist resort's management board said the erosion started four years ago and had worsened during last year's rainy season, when the path and the dike sank into the sea.

“There is no particular statistics about the eroded area of the Ca Mau tourist resort,” said Pham Quoc Cuong, vice director of the Department of External Affairs and Tourism of Ca Mau Province.

“However, we have observed that there are many places where the sea has eaten into the land by up to six meters.”

The erosion is continuing day by day, hour by hour, with no signs of stopping.

When inspecting the site on New Year’s Day we saw giant waves breaking onto the land, sweeping the soil away piece by piece.

Witnessing the area being worn away, many tourists worry about Ca Mau Point’s future.

They are afraid that it will vanish if nothing is done to stop the erosion.

Who is the perpetrator?

There are many theories about the cause of the problem.

Dang Trung Tan, director of Mangrove Forest Research Center of Ca Mau Province said: “We have found black mangroves (Avicennia officinalis) here, which indicate that the area is suffering from natural erosion.”

This area has experienced both siltation and erosion, according to a research of the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute II of Ho Chi Minh City.

From 1965 to 1995 dozens of meters of silt was dumped around the Ca Mau Point, said another researcher at the institute.

But the silting process ceased about 13 years ago and without the extra soil being carried to the area, the mangroves are being consumed by the sea.

Cuong said the erosion was partly due to nature and partly due to human intervention, particularly the construction of the Ca Mau tourist resort.

He said the Department of Trade and Tourism of Ca Mau Province (the Trade Department currently) made a mistake when building a tourist walking path using soil from the sea floor.

“It is the deep ditch caused by digging that caused the dike and the path to be swallowed up,” Cuong said.

“Digging soil from around the Ca Mau Point coast to build tourism infrastructure is also the reason for erosion.

To make the point look like the prow of a boat, the department built a sea wall, putting the mangroves outside the ditch.

They were left exposed to the waves,” said an official of the Department of External Affairs and Tourism.

In 1999 the Trade Department built a VND1 billion (US$62,500) one-kilometer rock dike around the sea edge, according to the project management board of the Department of External Affairs and Tourism.

It was eroded within two years.

Recognizing the erosion had become serious, the department then made a temporary dike from coconut stakes and carved stones, costing VND1.4 billion ($87,500).

The second dike now is completely eroded too.


“We are planning a VND14.2 billion ($888,300) project to build a dike to make the Sea East sea wall,” Cuong said, “The structure aims to urgently protect the remaining land.

The project has two parts: a dike for protecting against erosion will be constructed in one year; while it will take up to 10 years to create the sea wall.”