Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A lack of rainfall and scorching heat is destroying the livelihoods of Lao farmers, who say their crops are dying amid an ongoing drought in the Southeast Asian region linked to the El Niño phenomenon. The drought since May has left those in Laos who rely on agriculture to earn a living high and dry, with one rice farmer in the capital Vientiane telling RFA’s Lao Service that this year’s rainy season has been a total wash.
“The drought has delayed our rice production during the rainy season—the rice seedlings have dried out because there is no water,” the farmer named Khampong said. Khampong said that if the drought continues, he will not even bother with rice production this year “because it won’t be worthwhile.”
According to a report by the official Vientiane Times, farmers in the northwestern Lao province of Xayaburi are being particularly hard hit during the drought. The paper cited Agriculture and Forestry Department officials in the province as saying that more than 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of upland crop area has been affected, with 420 hectares (1,040 acre) reported as seriously damaged.
More than 104,000 hectares (256,990 acres) of freshly planted rice seedlings were also affected, with some 48,000 hectares (118,610 acres) in the districts of Ngeun, Xienghon, Phieng and Kaenthao sustaining notable damage, it said. Additionally, crops such as sweet corn, sesame and job's tear fruit were affected on more than 8,000 hectares (19,770 acres) with some 3,800 hectares (9,390 acres) reported as damaged.
Vanhdy Douangmaly, head of the Weather Forecasting and Aeronautical Meteorology Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, told RFA that the drought has lasted longer than previous years because of the influence of the El Niño weather pattern, which has led to heavy flooding in some parts of the world and a devastating lack of rain in others.
The lack of rainfall in Laos comes amid a wider drought affecting wider Southeast Asia, which has also forced farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam to abandon their rice paddies and seen the region’s main waterway, the Mekong River, drop to extremely low levels. Despite the lack of rain, the monsoon season is due to arrive in much of Southeast Asia in coming weeks, and meteorologists have warned that sudden deluges could lead to severe flooding and landslides.
Since the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical "Laudato sì", dedicated to the environment and creation, our "common home", has returned the issue of ecology and the effects of man on the future development of the planet to the fore.