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Drought Killing Vietnam Rice Crops Compounds Mekong Water Crisis

  • River is lowest in a century after worst dry spell in 90 years
  • Millions of farmers at risk from dams on 3,000-mile waterway
--FILE--An aerial view of the dam at the Jinghong Hydropower Station on the Lancang River, the Chinese part of the Mekong River, in Jinghong city, Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China's Yunnan province, 9 August 2013. China will release water from a dam in its southwestern province of Yunnan to help alleviate a drought in parts of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday (15 March 2016). The water will be released until April 10 from the Jinghong dam, ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing. It will benefit Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Lu added. China 'hopes it can be of help in alleviating the drought downstream', he said. The Jinghong Dam is a gravity dam composed of roller-compacted concrete on the Lancang River, the Chinese part of the Mekong River, near Jinghong in Yunnan Province, China. The main purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power production and it has an associated 1,750 MW power station
Photographer: Yang Zheng/Imaginechina via AP Photo
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The nine acres in southern Vietnam that double as rice paddy and shrimp pond for farmer Nguyen Thi Tam have become a wasteland. After the worst drought in 90 years, almost nothing grows.

Tam’s family had no income for two harvests because the rice crop failed and the shrimp died. They ran up $8,000 in debt -- more than twice her earnings in a typical year. To make ends meet, Tam plans to leave her village to work at a factory hundreds of miles away. Many others in the area already have fled, she said, including her daughter-in-law, who couldn’t endure the poverty.