Vietnam hit by worst drought in 90 years

Updated 01 March 2016

Vietnam hit by worst drought in 90 years

HANOI: Vietnam is suffering its worst drought in nearly a century with salinization hitting farmers especially hard in the crucial southern Mekong delta, experts said Monday.
“The water level of the Mekong River has gone down to its lowest level since 1926, leading to the worst drought and salinization there,” Nguyen Van Tinh, deputy head of the hydraulics department under the Ministry of Agriculture, told AFP.
The low-lying and heavily cultivated Mekong region is home to more than 20 million people and is the country’s rice basket.
Intensive cultivation and rising sea levels already make it one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive regions.
Scientists blame the ongoing 2015-2016 El Nino weather phenomenon, one of the most powerful on record, for the current drought.
Water shortages have also hampered agriculture in nearby Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Le Anh Tuan, a professor of climate change at the University of Can Tho in the heart of the Mekong region, said as much as 40-50 percent of the 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of arable land in the delta had been hit by salinization.
“We do not have any specific measures to mitigate the situation,” Tuan told AFP, adding that residents had been urged to save water for domestic rather than agricultural use.


Pope Francis to reunite with cousin on visit to Thailand

Updated 16 sec ago

Pope Francis to reunite with cousin on visit to Thailand

  • Sister Sivori, who has lived in Thailand for more than 50 years, will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator
  • The cousins have grown closer since Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013
UDON THANI, Thailand: In a remote Catholic school in Thailand, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, 77, kneels in a chapel to pray at the beginning of the school day.
The Catholic nun is also counting down the days when she will be reunited with her cousin, Pope Francis.
Or, as she calls him, Jorge. They grew up together in Argentina.
Sister Sivori, who has lived in Thailand for more than 50 years, will travel with Pope Francis as his personal translator when he visits the Southeast Asian nation from Wednesday to Saturday.
“For me, it’s a pleasure that he’s coming ... I never thought that he will be coming to Thailand,” the soft-spoken nun told Reuters in an interview.
“I’m happy for the people. I want the people to see him, to be close to him.”
The cousins, whose grandfathers were brothers, grew up in a big Catholic family in Argentina.
Sivori said they weren’t close as children, since Jorge Mario Bergoglio — as the Pope was known then — was six years older than she.
She joined the Catholic ministry young, and her calling as a missionary brought her to Thailand, where she has lived since 1966 and worked in schools across the country.
Now, she is a vice principal at St. Mary’s School in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, about 600 kilometers from Bangkok, the capital.
The cousins have grown closer since Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013.
On every journey home to her family in Argentina, Sivori first stops by the Vatican in Italy to see him for a few days.
The last time they saw each other was in 2018, when they bonded over their love of books.
“He took me up to the big room with plenty of books. He told me to choose, he would ask ‘Do you want this one?’,” she said.
“When we talk, we feel like brother and sister. For me, of course I know that he’s the Pope ... but we talk simply.”
She will travel to Bangkok ahead of the pontiff’s arrival and shadow him during his visit, at his request.
In the Buddhist-majority country, Pope Francis will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the supreme Buddhist patriarch, Catholic leaders and students, before flying on to Japan.
Sivori brings out an envelope of handwritten letters and postcards from the Vatican and reads them fondly.
“When I meet him, I’ll call him by his name, Jorge. Pope Francis just came after,” she said.
“I’m proud of him.”