HO CHI MINH CITY, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — Parts of Mekong Delta in Vietnam have been experiencing the most serious drought and saltwater encroachment in the past nearly 100 years, local media reported Friday.

The ongoing drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta has caused serious damages to rice and fruit tree-growing areas, forests, agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as freshwater shortages in many southern cities and provinces, daily newspaper Tien Phong (Pioneer) reported.

The drought and saltwater encroachment have damaged many rice fields, causing losses worth some 1,000 billion Vietnamese dong (44.4 million U.S. dollars), said Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat.

Kien Giang Province has erected 82 small dykes with total investment of nearly 20 billion Vietnamese dong (nearly 89,000 U.S. dollars) to prevent further saltwater intrusion, but saltwater still has encroached on rice fields, destroying over 30,000 hectares.

The province currently needs more capital to build 27 bigger dykes.

The Southern Irrigation Science Institute forecast that all localities in the Mekong Delta, excluding Can Tho City, An Giang Province and Dong Thap Province, will have suffered saltwater encroachment this year.

The delta needs some 4 billion U.S. dollars to effectively deal with the drought and saltwater encroachment, said the agriculture minister.