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Paddy Water Environ (2003) 1:6573 DOI 10.



T. P. Tuong S. P. Kam C. T. Hoanh L. C. Dung N. T. Khiem J. Barr D. C. Ben

Impact of seawater intrusion control on the environment, land use and household incomes in a coastal area
Received: 15 November 2002 / Accepted: 14 March 2003 / Published online: 20 June 2003  Springer-Verlag 2003

Abstract Agricultural production in the coastal wetlands of Asia is often hindered by salinity intrusion caused by tidal fluctuation. This paper reports changes in environmental and socio-economic conditions that followed the phased construction and operation of sluices for controlling seawater intrusion from 1994 2000 in a coastal area of the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam. Canal water salinity decreased rapidly upstream of sluices, allowing rice cropping intensification and increased rice production in the eastern part of the study area. However, the livelihoods of farmers in the western part were adversely affected due to cessation of supply of brackish water that was needed for brackish-water shrimp farming, while the acid sulphate soils present there posed problems for rice cultivation. The poor farmers and landless people suffered more because the fishery resource that they depended on declined sharply due to reduced salinity and increased acidity in the canal water. The findings confirmed that the environment and resource use in the coastal lands are very sensitive to external intervention. A clear understanding of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of
T. P. Tuong ()) S. P. Kam C. T. Hoanh International Rice Research Institute, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines e-mail: Tel.: +63-2-8450563 Fax: +63-2-8450606 L. C. Dung Can Tho University, Can Tho, Vietnam N. T. Khiem Faculty of Agricultural Economics, An Giang University, An Giang, Vietnam J. Barr Information, Training and Development (ITAD) Ltd., Hassocks, West Sussex, BN6 8SG, UK D. C. Ben Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bac Lieu Province, Vietnam

salinity control measures in coastal areas can help planning to enhance farmers incomes while minimizing negative environmental impacts. Land-use policy formulation, planning and management should adopt a more holistic approach, taking into account the interests of all resource users, especially the poor, instead of focusing on any particular sector. Keywords Control of salinity intrusion Land use dynamics Farmers livelihoods Land and water management of coastal wetlands

The coastal wetlands of Asia are home to the poorest and most food-insecure farmers. Agricultural production is often hindered by salinity intrusion caused by tidal fluctuation. One strategy for improving agricultural production is to install saline water intrusion sluices to reduce incursions of seawater. Since 1994, the government of Vietnam, in its drive to increase rice production, has constructed a series of sluices along the coast of the Ca Mau Peninsula in the southern part of the Mekong River Delta (Fig. 1). It is anticipated that the area protected from salinity intrusion to a targeted 160,000 ha, farmers can intensify their rice cropping and thereby improve their livelihood. Experience elsewhere has shown that such major engineering intervention can have profound environmental and socioeconomic impacts, not all of which are positive. In eastern Australia, White et al. (1996) showed that saline water sluices caused water quality to deteriorate, with adverse effects on aquatic life. In areas with acid sulphate soils (ASS), as occur in the Ca Mau Peninsula, protection against saline tidal inundation in the dry season may lead to lower water tables and increased oxidation of the ASS, resulting in increased acidity (van den Eelaart 1981), which poses serious agronomic problems for rice cultivation (Xuan 1993). In the rainy


Fig. 1 Location map (inset), soil map and 7 dS m1 February isohalines for 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000 of the study site (shaded area). The soil map is completed from Ve (1988) and Integrated

Resources Mapping Center (2000). For simplicity of presentation, alluvial and saline soils are grouped together

season, leaching of these soils causes acidification of the canal water (Minh et al. 1997; Tuong et al. 1998). It is expected that changes in environmental conditions will alter farmers constraints and opportunities in resource use and management strategies. However, the impacts of salinity prevention and the associated environmental changes on farmers resource-use strategies and livelihoods are less well documented. Changes in water chemistry (lower salinity, higher acidity) result in reduced aquatic biodiversity, including fish and shrimp (Chairuddin et al. 1990; Grimas 1998), which constitute important protein sources for the rural poor as well as an income source or supplement for landless laborers and small farmers. We hypothesized that the well-intended salinity control measures in Ca Mau Peninsula might enhance rice intensification and benefit rice farmers at the expense of others whose livelihood depends on brackish water as a resource for fisheries and aquaculture. A clear understanding of the changes in the environmental and socioeconomic conditions following the intervention is needed to help enhance the benefits and mitigate the negative effects of salinity prevention measures, and to formulate effective and sustainable resource management strategies in the coastal lands.

This paper describes (1) the use of an interdisciplinary approach to quantify the processes that govern the changes in environmental and socioeconomic conditions, and in natural resource use, and (2) implications of the findings for resource use policy and land and water management to resolve the conflict between agriculture and aquaculture and fisheries brought about by the prevention of salinity intrusion in a coastal area of the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam.

Study site
Location and description The study site constitutes an area of 160,000 ha in Bac Lieu Province, located on Ca Mau Peninsula, Mekong River Delta (Fig. 1). Eighty-five percent of the population is engaged in agricultural and fisheries activities, with rice growing being the most important. The study area has a tropical monsoon climate with distinct dry (mid-November to April) and rainy (May to mid-November) seasons. It is predominantly a floodplain and is generally flat, with micro-topographical differences occurring between river and canal levees and pockets of inland swamps. The soils are generally young and of alluvial origin, and heavy


textured. About 60% of the study area is covered by acid sulfate soils (ASS), mostly occupying low-lying areas in the western parts of the area (Fig. 1), of which about 40% are shallow ASS, having the sulphuric layer within 50 cm depth (Breemen and Pons 1978). Soils in the eastern parts are predominantly alluvial and saline types (Ve 1988; Integrated Resources Mapping Center 2000). During the dry season, the area used to be subject to tidal inflows of seawater through the dense canal network, so that farmers could only grow one crop of rice during the rainy season when rainfall and fresh water from the Mekong River pushed back the tidal intrusion and leached the soil. In the early 1990s, in response to high demand for rice in the country, the government of Vietnam decided to (1) build a series of sluices that could be closed at high tide to protect rice lands from saline intrusion and (2) improve the canal network to increase the supply of fresh water from the Mekong River. From 1994 onward, 10 large sluices and many small ones were progressively built from the eastern to the western part of the study area (Fig. 1). The construction of the sluices started from the east ensured that the source of fresh water from the Mekong River (to the east of the study area) could enter the area and help push back tidal intrusion. Land use and cropping pattern Over the past decade, the traditional rice varieties grown in the rainy season have been gradually replaced by modern, short-statured, high-yielding varieties of shorter maturity, particularly in areas with shallow flood depth (Tuong et al. 1991). More recently, two crops of rice, the summerautumn (He Thu in local Vietnamese language) from May to JuneAugust followed by the autumnwinter (Thu Dong) from September to November/December), have been grown in the rainy season, particularly where salinity can be leached out by early rainfall. In areas protected from dry-season salinity intrusion, the irrigated winterspring (Dong Xuan) crop can be grown from December to April, thus allowing for triple cropping of rice. In the ASSs that are not suitable for rice, some farmers in the past practised extensive shrimp pond culture using seed stock through natural recruitment of Metapenaeus spp. brought in by the tides. From the mid-1990s onward, shrimp farmers, attracted by the high profits of producing tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) for export, switched to stocking tiger shrimp post-larvae, and pond shrimp culture became popular (Brennan et al. 2000).

14 stations within and at the periphery of the study area. In 2001, pH was measured on the 15th and 30th of each month at 60 locations, situated at junctions between the primary and secondary canals, to assess the extent of acid pollution that may be caused by leaching of ASS by rainfall (Tuong et al. 1998). EC and pH were measured in situ, using digital meters. Aluminum concentration was measured in laboratories following the method of Begheijn (1980). The compiled data were incorporated in a geographic information system (GIS) database of canal and river networks and soil types for the entire Ca Mau Peninsula. The salinity and pH data were used to construct monthly isohalines for 7 dS m1 [being the upper limit of salinity of irrigation water for rice; Ayers and Westcot (1985)] and pH isolines. Monthly salinity, minimum pH, and maximum Al3+ concentration for each year were plotted for three selected stationsNinh Quoi, Pho Sinh, and Chu Chi (locations are shown in Fig. 1)along the main Quan LoPhung Hiep canal that transects the study area, to examine changes in water quality corresponding to different phases of sluice construction. Land-use dynamics Yearly land-use maps from 19952000 were produced by interpreting multidate satellite imagery and field checking and corroborated by official statistics, following the procedure described in Kam et al. (2000). GIS-based analysis was carried out to determine the annual changes in land use according to the phased salinity protection scheme. Correlation analysis between was carried out to relate increase in rice area and the acid and nonacid soil areas that became saline free (i.e. salinity of canal water <7 dS m1). This was to determine whether soil acidity inhibits the increase in rice growing area. Farmers strategies and livelihoods Socioeconomic studies using the sustainable livelihoods framework (Scoones 1998) were carried out to determine how the seawater intrusion control affected different groups in the community, their income, and their strategies to cope with changes. Socioeconomic surveys were carried out at sampled hamlets (each hamlet constituting 140650 households) based on stratified zoning of the study area, according to three water salinity regimes (salinity protected before 1998 and from 1998 2000, and not protected in 2000) and four soil types (alluvial, saline soil, deep ASS, and shallow ASS; in Fig. 1 the alluvial and saline soils are grouped together for simple presentation purpose). There were only seven sampling zones because not all the possible soilwater salinity combinations existed at the study site. A baseline survey was carried out at 14 hamlets (two per sampling zone), whereby the households in each hamlet were ranked according to economic criteria (wealth). The

Water quality Electrical conductivity (EC), pH, and Al3+ concentration of the canal water were monitored at low and high tide on the 15th day of each month for the period 19942000 at


purpose of the survey was to determine the livelihood typology of households and their basic socioeconomic characteristics. Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools, supplemented with key informant group interviews, were then applied to the sampled hamlets to determine the differential impacts of the water control interventions on the different household livelihood and resource-use strategies.

Water quality Fluctuations in monthly salinity at three selected stations along the Quan Lo-Phung Hiep (QLPH) canal during the 19942000 period are shown in Fig. 2. Under the influence of tidal ingress, water salinity peaked at the end of the dry season (AprilMay) and was lowest in the wet season (AugustOctober). Corresponding to the eastto-west progression of sluice construction along the southern boundary of the study area, the reduction in dry-season water salinity occurred earliest at the easternmost station, Ninh Quoi, in 1997, followed by Pho Sinh in 1998. At the westernmost station, Chu Chi, water salinity remained high in 2000, the year of completion of the sluices to the extreme west of the study area. This suggests that salinity could still enter the study area from the west via the canals connected to the West Sea in the Gulf of Thailand. The isohalines for dry-season months, as represented by the 7 dS m1 isohalines for February in Fig. 1, depict the retreat of the salinity boundary from east to west within the study area, corresponding to the phased
Fig. 2 Monthly salinity dynamics along the Quan LoPhung Hiep canal at a Chu Chi, b Pho Sinh, and c Ninh Quoi. Locations of the three stations are shown in Fig. 1

construction and operation of the sluices. In 1996, salinity in February exceeded 7 dS m1 in most of the study area. In 2000, only about 37,000 ha to the west of the study area had February salinity higher than 7 dS m1. The sluices were thus very effective in protecting the area from salinity intrusion. There was little evidence of acid pollution of the surface water at any location during the dry season (Fig. 3a). About 1 month into the rainy season (in May), pH of the surface water dropped rapidly. The lowest pH occurred in the western part of Hong Dan District (Fig. 3b), where the shallow ASSs are concentrated (Fig. 1). Later in the rainy season, the pH values in the canal water returned to nonacidic levels (Fig. 3c). From 1998 onwards the annual minimum pH values at Chu Chi (the westernmost station in an area of ASS) were consistently lower than pre-1998 levels by 0.53 pH units, while at Ninh Quoi (the easternmost station) the minimum pH was unaffected until 2000, when it was more than one pH unit lower than in previous years (Fig. 4a), while at Pho Sinh there was no clear trend. Consistent with the pH trends, maximum aluminum concentration at Chu Chi was much higher from 1998 onwards than pre 1998, while there was a large increase at Ninh Quoi in 2000 (Fig. 4b). There was a large increase in maximum aluminium concentration in 1999 at Pho Sinh, returning to a low value in 2000. Land-use dynamics Progressive expansion of the area protected from salinity intrusion, coupled with available fresh water from the Mekong River, allowed a large number of farmers in the

Fig. 3 pH isolines for a 30 April, b 30 May, and c 15 August 2001 and boundaries of three districts (Hong Dan, Gia Rai, and Vinh Loi) within and around the study area. Numbers are the pH values of the isolines. Location map of the study area is shown in Fig. 1

69 Fig. 4 Annual minimum pH a and maximum Al3+ concentration b at Ninh Quoi, Pho Sinh, and Chu Chi. Locations of the three stations are shown in Fig. 1

Fig. 5 Land use in the study area for a 1995, b 1997, c 1998, and d 2000. Locations of four surveyed hamlets are also shown in d

eastern part of the study site to gradually increase their double and triple rice areas, as shown in Fig. 5. Taking advantage of the extended salinity-free period, farmers could plant the summerautumn crop using shortduration varieties, followed by a second, autumnwinter crop. This double cropping expanded rapidly from 1997 1998 (Fig. 5b, c), partly replacing the traditional rainyseason crop. Triple rice cropping, with the additional irrigated winterspring crop, started to appear in eastern Hong Dan District in 1998, and thereafter expanded into Vinh Loi District (Fig. 5d). Rice intensification in Gia Rai and western Hong Dan District was hampered by the extensive occurrence of shallow ASS and the less-assured supply of fresh water flowing in from the Mekong River. Although canal water salinity protection became effective at Ninh Quoi in 1996 (Fig. 2c), triple rice cropping (by the introduction of the winterspring crop) at the northeastern part of the study site started only in 1998 (Fig. 5c). Similarly, the introduction of triple rice cropping at the eastern part (in 2000, Fig. 5d) lagged

2 years after salinity protection became effective at Pho Sinh (in 1998, Fig. 2b). Possible reasons for this lag include the following: (1) it might take 1 or 2 years for farmers to adopt and adjust the cropping pattern to the new saline-free conditions, and (2) the soil salinity might have persisted for 1 or 2 years after the water salinity had already declined. Though the government informed farmers of the water canal salinity, successful rice cultivation depended on soil salinity, and farmers had to resort to trial and error in starting a new cropping season after the canal water had become fresh. While rice intensification occurred in the eastern part, the raising of tiger shrimp in brackish water ponds expanded in the low-lying ASS areas in the western part, particularly in 1997 and 1998 (Fig. 5b, c). As the sluices in the western fringe of the study area became operational after 1998, thereby advancing the salinity-protected area westward (Fig. 1), the supply of brackish water needed for the shrimp ponds was cut off, forcing many farmers to abandon shrimp farming. The year 2000 saw a decrease in

70 Fig. 6 Income level (y axis, expressed as percentage of income in 1966) during 1996 2000 (abbreviated as 9600 on x axis) at four hamlets: a Ninh Binh, b Ap 21, c Chu Chot, and d Ap 1. Locations of the surveyed hamlets are shown in Fig. 5d. Rich, Average, and Poor refer to groups of farmers ranked according to their relative wealth. The rich groups at Ninh Binh, Ap 21, and Chu Chot were not presented because they showed the same trends as the average group. Non-farm refers to non-farming activities. Off-farm refers to farmers work as hired labor on other farms

the area under shrimp and shrimp-rice culture [shrimp is cultivated in the dry season, followed by a single rice crop in the rainy season when the saline water has been flushed out; Xuan (1993)] compared with 1997 and 1998 (Fig. 5d vs. Fig. 5b, c). Livelihood changes Figure 6 shows the relative changes in household income at four surveyed hamlets (whose locations are indicated in Fig. 5d) during 19962000. On the alluvial and nonacid saline soils in the eastern part of the study area, such as in Ninh Binh and Ap 21 (Figs. 1 and 5d), farmers livelihoods were improved with time, i.e. as water became less saline (Fig. 6a, b). This was clearly associated with rice cropping intensification and crop diversification made possible by the salinity protection scheme. The relatively better-off groups, being able to grow two or even three rice crops (Fig. 5c), benefited directly by increased income from rice. With cropping intensification over the region, the poor and landless were able to increase their income from selling labor (off-farm

activities for group poor in Fig. 6a, b) to meet the increased demand for farm labor by the landed households. The other extreme situation is seen in Chu Chot in the northwestern part of the study area (Fig. 5d), where saline water still exists during the dry season (Fig. 1), allowing farmers to continue intensive shrimp raising and shrimprice farming in 2000 (Fig. 5d). Innovations in shrimp farming and the expanding export market boosted the income of the better-off farmers associated with shrimp aquaculture (Fig. 6c, group average). Income from rice also increased because of their enhanced experience with shrimp-rice farming. The poor benefited from the increased labor demand (off-farm activities, Fig. 6c, group poor) of the shrimp pond owners. They also supplement their income earned from non-farm activities, such as by making bamboo products. In the southwestern part of the study area, the livelihoods of the people were almost equally dependent on both shrimp (on the low-lying ASS) and rice (on higher land). The income structure and trends for the three groups for Ap 1 showed clear associations of the rich group with shrimp cultivation, the average group with rice


farming, and the poor group with capture fishery or offfarm activities (Fig. 6d). Income from shrimp farming declined drastically in 1998 and 2000 (rich and average groups, Fig. 6d) when salinity protection cut off the supply of brackish water. Results from the survey showed that farmers attempts to change to rice cropping failed because most of the shrimp fields were located in low-lying, shallow ASS. Income of the average group slightly increased with time (Fig. 6d). This is associated with their increase in income from rice production, as a result of the reduced salinity. The poor group suffered from income reduction (Fig. 6d, group poor). This was because their livelihoods largely depended in the past on capture fisheries. The sluice closure must have reduced the natural fish populations. In 2000, the poor had to earn their living almost entirely by selling labor (off-farm activities in Fig. 6d, group poor).

The sluices constructed along the border of the study area effectively prevented salinity intrusion from the South China Sea, resulting in reduced dry-season canal water salinity, and the progressive westward expansion of the salinity-free area. There were increases in acidity and Al3+ concentrations as more sluices became operational. The increase in Al3+ concentration started in the west (at Chu Chi) and progressed eastward toward Ninh Quoi, in contrast to the westward phased operation of the sluices, and the corresponding retreat of the water salinity front. This acidity increase might not have been a direct consequence of salinity protection, but rather a result of the land-use changes in the ASS areas in the western part of the study area. Tuong et al. (1998) showed that opening up ASS for cultivation increased acid pollution of the surrounding water. In this case, the conversion of the lowlying ASS into shrimp ponds in 1997 and 1998 (Fig. 5b, c) might have started the increase in acid pollution. The construction of shrimp ponds involves digging into the sulphidic and pyritic subhorizons and piling this material on the pond embankments. Acidity is produced through oxidation of these materials upon exposure and drying. The oxidation process occurred mainly in the dry season, but the acidity remained in the soils in the pond embankments until rainfall leached the soil. The leachate
Fig. 7 Area under summerautumn (He Thu) crop plotted against a nonacid and b acid soil, within the saline-free zone in January

became a potent source of acidic pollution of the water that flows into the canals (Minh et al. 2002), as shown by the contrast in water pH between April and May (Fig. 3a vs. Fig. 3b). There appeared to be a flush of acidic pollution for about 2 months (May and June) at the start of the rainy season. Dilution and transportation by the water flow might have helped to reduce water acidity in the later months of the rainy season (Fig. 3c). The results conform to previous findings (Minh et al. 1997) that the maximum pollution occurs at the beginning of the rainy season. Shrimp farmers control acidity in their ponds by applying lime, despite the high cost, and are not overly concerned with acidification of the canal water. Experience elsewhere indicates that flushes of acidic pollution are detrimental to aquatic biodiversity, including that of fish and shrimp (Chairuddin et al. 1990; White et al. 1996; Grimas 1998). While further studies are needed to verify whether there indeed has been a negative effect of acidic pollution on aquatic biodiversity in the study area, this nevertheless raises the issue of longer-term sustainability and the environmental impact of shrimp culture in the ASS area. The land-use maps in Fig. 5 show that the increase in the area of double and triple rice cropping was associated with the expansion of the salinity-free areas (Fig. 1). However, intensification of rice cultivation is more difficult in the western part, despite larger areas being freed from salinity intrusion. The quadratic relationship between the area of the summerautumn crop and ASS area within the saline-free zones (Fig. 7b), as opposed to the linear trend for the nonacid case (Fig. 7a), suggests that soil acidity may be one of the constraints to increasing rice intensity in this area most recently protected from salinity intrusion. Another factor may be economic disincentives for further rice intensification because of the falling rice price as a result of increased rice production in the whole Mekong River Delta, particularly in comparison with revenues from shrimp production. The rapid changes in hydrological conditions as more sluices went into operation year by year have had profound economic and social impacts. The impacts varied with farmers production environments. Farmers on non-ASS to the east of the study area benefited from the salinity protection scheme, which allowed them to increase rice intensification. On the other hand, farmers in


the ASS in the western part found themselves having to abandon shrimp farming, which in some cases meant a sharp decline in household income. The change in environment also caused a decline in income earnings from capture fisheries, which were not only an important income source for the poor households but also their major protein source. Although the income decline from catching fish among the poor has been compensated for to some extent by other income-producing opportunities, this nevertheless reveals an important ecological consequence of preventing tidal ingress into the study area, which warrants more detailed study and monitoring. The identified negative impacts of salinity protection measures on the environment, aquaculture, and fisheries and on the peoples livelihood in some areas have prompted rethinking of the government policy and implications for water and land-use management in the study area, instead of purely salinity control for rice production. The local authorities are challenged to turn around a conflicting situation of incompatible land and water use to achieve a workable compromise that can accommodate the needs of both the shrimp and rice farmers in different parts of Bac Lieu Province as well as minimize adverse environmental effects. This requires sluice operation schedules that would allow the local government to manage the water salinity level in different zones according to the requirement dictated by their land use. The use of GIS-linked hydraulic simulation could help determine such sluice operation schedules (Hoanh et al. 2001).

resource users, especially the poor, instead of focusing on only a particular sector. Continuous monitoring of the environmental and socioeconomic conditions following the intervention is essential for a timely supply of adequate data for resource planning and management that would enhance the positive outcomes and minimize the negative impacts of salinity protection schemes.
Acknowledgment The authors are grateful for the financial support from the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom.

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The study confirmed that the environment and resource use in the coastal lands are very sensitive to external intervention. The construction of seawater-control sluices rapidly reduced the canal water salinity and expanded the salinity-free areas. This benefits rice farmers in the eastern part of the study site but adversely affects farmers in the low-lying areas in the western part. These farmers earned their living by aquaculture and fisheries, which rely on brackish water. The effects of seawater-control sluices on farmers livelihoods thus varied with soil and water characteristics, which influenced their resource endowment and their farming activities over the years. Acidic pollution of canal water observed during the study period was not a direct consequence of the construction of the sluices. It was caused by leaching of the embankment of the shrimp ponds, constructed in the low-lying ASS in the western part of the study area. The acidic pollution of the surface water raised questions regarding the longer-term sustainability of the land use and water management scheme for agricultural and aquacultural production on ASSs in coastal areas. Further research is needed to understand the generation of acidity and its dispersal through canal waters. Land-use policy and planning should take a more holistic approach, taking into account the interests of all

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