An uncertain future for the poor in the face of a fast changing environment in Kien Giang Province

02 November 2011 | Blogs

Located on Kien Giang’s 200-km-long coastline, Binh Son Commune is one of the most eroded stretches of coast where, according to the local government and community leaders, the mangroves have receded year after year under the combined effects of sea level rise, storms, and other extreme events. The livelihoods of disadvantaged people in this area, particularly in Vam Ray Hamlet, have been dramatically affected.

Arriving in Vam Ray, we met Mr. Luong, one of the poorest villagers. Looking into his weathered face, I felt his anxiety about an uncertain future. Due to the increasingly unpredictable weather, the inhabitant of Vam Ray has been trying to find viable alternatives such as shifting from near-shore capture fishing to aquaculture, and growing fruits such as sugar cane and bananas. Standing on the eroded sea dyke, Mr. Hue, a leader of Vam Ray, explained that “local people lives, especially the poor and Khmers, who have no capital and are land-less, will find it more and more difficult because of poor equipment for off-shore fishing, and fruit crops that have failed because of saline intrusion”.

Standing next to the eroded dyke we saw open stretches of coastline without mangroves, with some remnants of melaleuca fences that had failed to reduce the power of the tides and waves. A few years ago, there was a 100-m deep mangrove forest in front of the dyke but so far this year coastal erosion has broken the dyke four times. Luong’s house stands just behind this part of the dyke. The little land he has is affected by salinity and is worthless on the land market. Fishing now yields virtually nothing because of the fast disappearing mangroves. Unable to sell his land to move away, or move to off-shore fishing because of his age and lack of skills, Luong’s future looks bleak. For many poor people, such as Luong, the ability to adapt to climate and other environmental changes is extremely limited and will be a major challenge for governments, communities, and projects such as Building Coastal Resilience to address.

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thanh - BCR field coordinator