Pontoon bridge a nightmare for farmers in Vietnam’s lychee hub

By Pham Chieu   June 14, 2021 | 06:45 am GMT+7
Lychee farmers in Bac Giang, Vietnam’s lychee hub, have to cross a narrow, swaying bridge and risk losing the fruits of a year's labor to the river below.
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At 5 a.m. farmers start heading to nearby Kim and Chu towns to sell their lychee. They have to cross the Tong Lenh pontoon bridge across the Luc Nam River on their motorbikes. This is the only bridge connecting them with Luc Ngan District, Bac Giang’s main lychee growing area with 15,000 hectares. On days when the water is low, it is not too difficult to traverse, but when it is high, the pontoon begins to sway, and falling into the river is all too easy.

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The bridge is only wide enough to fit two motorbikes, and since there is always traffic, drivers have to navigate carefully past vehicles coming in the opposite direction. The work is usually only done by men since it often requires manhandling and balancing motorbikes with baskets with nearly 200 kg of lychees.

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Giap Van Tu, 45, of Truong Giang Commune says: "Locals call this the bridge of death. But there is no other way since if you want to sell lychees at a good price, you have to cross this bridge."

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Thousands of motorbikes cross this bridge daily during the lychee season. Though many are rushing to sell, everyone lines up in orderly fashion when it comes to crossing the bridge since a small mistake means all their hard labor over months will be in vain.

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People rush to help a man whose vehicle has tipped over. Though the fruits were saved in time, they were bruised and damaged, making it difficult to sell them.

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Lychees can be seen scattered and crushed on the bridge, the result of many unfortunate mishaps.

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After crossing the bridge, farmers have to drive up a vertical slope, another difficult task.
Nguyen Van Thao, 57, also of Truong Giang says: "I'm still afraid of going up the slope because my motorbike might fall over when trying to go uphill."
Some farmers place a heavy object on the front of the vehicle to help balance it, but that makes the vehicle heavier.

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During the lychee harvest season, the youth unions of Luc Nam District and Truong Giang Commune dispatch members to help farmers go up the steep slope. There are at least 10 volunteers’ station around the bridge at 5 a.m. to give a hand.
Vu Thi Net of the Luc Nam District Confederation of Labor said: "The convoy of motorbike selling lychees stretches for a kilometer every day. If we don't come and help, it will be very difficult for people to go through."

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Bac Giang is in the early period of the lychee harvest season. The price depends on the freshness and is VND15,000-18,000 ($0.65-0.78) per kilogram.

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In order to avoid the price squeezing and promote fair trade at the lychee purchasing points, the people's committee of Luc Ngan District has put up a board with the phone numbers of the local authorities so farmers can contact if needed.

 
 
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