Finally I have been to the delta of the river that was the main reason for me to come to Vietnam in the first place. Having travelled “the Greater Mekong Region” with my dear friends Achim and Volker, the “end” of the river was the missing piece in the picture for me.
And this delta is indeed like a culmination of all the power that the Mekong amasses on its long way through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Mekong may be only maybe the tenth longest river on the planet – but the experts say that it is number two in biodiversity – after the Amazon.
Having travelled on a boat on the Mekong in Northern Laos, through canyons and long stretches of wild, uninhabited nature one would not assume how full of life every square centimetre in the Mekong delta seems to be.
There is one property next to the other along all the roads and waterways. Countless families share the richness of this fruitful countryside – where three crops a year are the norm…
The further you move South-West from Saigon the more lush the vegetation becomes and the huge rice fields and big plantations are more and more being parcelled out by channels and water ways. And once you cross the My Tho branch of the Mekong, transport infrastructure shifts from road to water.
There are countless channels and river-branches – and I wonder how many of the 16 million people in the area live on boats – or floating houses? Life is bustling and connected in one form or the other to the water. While there is still a lot of traditional extensive farming and fish-breeding there are also industrial outfits now that breed 200 million fish in one spot to supply the needs of Western people! 200 million! Guess what they feed the fish?!
To give you an idea of the traditional business. Here you see some houses of a typical village, floating on the Mekong river:
People live on them with there animals and everything. Underneath the floating houses there are fish cages. As big as the house and between 3 and 4 meters deep. Some people breed different varieties of fish and you will find them at different levels of the cage, others only one kind (like catfish).
As rice is the universal commodity in this area the feed is home made pellets, made from rice bran.
The bran is cooked and then left to cool off and afterwards pushed through a machine that makes pellets of it.
No chemicals and antibiotics. Still questionable in my view as I don’t consider rice and its derivatives the natural food of fish. But apart from that “organic”.
And the “rice diet” does not work for all the fish they breed. Some need more specific food. Anyway, only about 20% of the fish produced in the Mekong delta are produced in that “traditional” benign way. I could not get access to the industrial fish farms (which I really wanted to see), as the two of them that I had emailed did not respond. So, there is little I can say. Maybe just that much: we are all doomed – and it’s our own bloody fault!
Doesn’t it look nice in such a floating village?
One of the concerns about the future of this area is the fact that China is planning to build a series of dams along a stretch of 800kms of the Mekong and also Laos is planning to build a huge dam. So, maybe all this unique biodiversity here will be gone in a few years and the waters of the “Mother of Water” will only be used for “substantial” commercial operations.
Sorry, I am getting a little turned off now. I have so many photos of this unique landscape that I wanted to share. But not now. Anyway, I am back in Saigon. So, maybe tomorrow…have a good night…