The Mekong Delta, as a region, lies immediately to the west of Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon by locals), roughly forming a triangle stretching fromMỹ Tho in the east to Châu Đốc and Hà Tiên in the northwest, down to Cà Mau and the South China Sea at the southernmost tip of Vietnam, and including the island of Phú Quốc. The Mekong Delta (Vietnamese: Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long “Nine Dragon river delta”), also known as the Western Region (Vietnamese: Miền Tây) is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of 39,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi). The size of the area covered by water depends on the season.
The Mekong Delta has recently been dubbed as a “biological treasure trove”. Over 10,000 new species have been discovered in previously unexplored areas of Mekong Delta, including a species of rat thought to be extinct
The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes, but is dominated by flat flood plains in the south, with a few hills in the north and west. This diversity of terrain was largely the product of tectonic uplift and folding brought about by the collision of the Indian and Eurasiantectonic plates about 50 million years ago. The soil of the lower Delta consists mainly of sediment from the Mekong and its tributaries, deposited over thousands of years as the river changed its course due to the flatness of the low-lying terrain.
The Mekong Delta is the region with the smallest forest area in Vietnam. 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) or 7.7% of the total area are forested as of 2011. The only provinces with large forests are Cà Mau Province and Kiên Giang Province, together accounting for two thirds of the region’s forest area, while forests cover less than 5% of the area of all of the other eight provinces and cities.
The inhabitants of the Mekong Delta region are predominantly ethnic Viet. The region, formerly part of the Khmer Empire, is also home to the largest population ofKhmers outside of the modern borders of Cambodia. The Khmer minority population live primarily in the Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng, and Muslim Chăm in Tan Chau, An Giang provinces. There are also sizeable Hoa (ethnic Chinese) populations in the Kiên Giang, and Trà Vinh provinces. The region had a population of 17.33 million people in 2011.
The population of the Mekong Delta has been growing relatively slowly in recent years, mainly due to out-migration. The region’s population only increased by 471,600 people between 2005 and 2011, while 166,400 people migrated out in 2011 alone. Together with the central coast regions, it has one of the slowest growing populations in country. Population growth rates have been between 0.3% and 0.5% between 2008 and 2011, while they have been over 2% in the neighbouring southeastern region. Net migration has been negative in all of these years. The region also has a relatively low fertility rate, at 1.8 children per woman in 2010 and 2011, down from 2.0 in 2005.