Via American Press
The irony cannot be ignored.
More than 40 years after American soldiers sloshed along the Mekong River in an effort to turn back communism in South Vietnam, representatives from the United States, Vietnam and eight other delta areas met in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, to discuss the sustainability of deltas around the world.
The mission was to exchange ideas about the challenges and opportunities common to delta regions around the world. Many, like our own Mississippi River delta, are severely threatened.
‘‘Stakeholders were crucial to the state of Louisiana’s creation of a master plan for coastal protection and restoration,’’ said Jerome Zeringue, executive director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. ‘‘Ours is a working coast, and the communities whose economic activities benefit the entire United States must have access to information to help inform decision making.’’
One group labeled their concept of searching for solutions as IDEA: Identification, or knowing what you have; Dynamism, or going with the flow; Education, learning that reaches out locally, upstream and globally; and Adaptation, or taking action now.
‘‘We need to understand how people living and working here and in deltas worldwide can adapt to rapid change,’’ said Rien Dam of Deltares, the Dutch water and flood management organization.
Experts found a link between the Mississippi and Mekong river deltas, noting that the Mississippi runs through numerous states while the Mekong runs through several countries. They also noted that the Mississippi River delta has been negatively impacted by the leveeing of the river some 90 years ago while the Mekong is threatened today by dams that are being built upriver.
Mark Davis, senior research fellow and director of Tulane’s Institute on Water Resources and Law Policy, said boundaries must be considered if deltas and their benefits are to be sustained.
Dutch experts suggested rather than focusing all the attention on containing a river, some effort should be made to harness its resources.
‘‘We have built walls around a river that cannot be contained forever and we are seeing that, with drought and then flood conditions wreaking havoc on communities and the economy,’’ said Derek Hoeferlin, associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis. ‘‘Why not figure out a way to let the river do her thing, take advantage of the valuable fresh water that we carelessly let wash out into the gulf?’’
That means building more release structures along the lower Mississippi River from south of its intersection with the Red River in Louisiana to allow fresh-water sediment to flow into the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers’ delta. That sediment and fresh water would nourish and rebuild our endangered wetlands.
Time is of the essence, said New Orleans architect David Waggoner. ‘‘Only consider the insurance risks now evident in South Louisiana and you realize that you can’t keep doing what we have been doing and expect different results,’’ he said.
The importance of DELTA2013VIETNAM conference cannot be overstated.
But action speaks louder than words.