Water shortage makes border guards’ Covid task harder

By Hoang Thuy   April 5, 2020 | 01:00 pm GMT+7

Lu A Vinh rode 10 kilometers and walked for an hour to fetch 20 liters of water from the border station to his checkpoint.

His checkpoint was set up on January 30, at border marker 170 (3) in Muong Khuong District of northern Lao Cai Province. From there, Vinh can look out to where the Xanh and Chay rivers meet, next to a Chinese hydroelectric plant. 

Working from a small hut, Vinh and his colleagues have to control illegal entry to Vietnam to help contain the spreading virus.

A guard at checkpoint 170(3) scans the vicinity near a Chinese hydroelectric plant. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Khau.

A guard at checkpoint 170 (3) scans the vicinity near a Chinese hydroelectric plant. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Khau.

Having the water, he poured it into an old kettle to boil. Each kettle can hold three liters, enough for four people in a day.

"Water for drinking and cooking takes up over ten litters per day, so we have to use the rest very economically," said Vinh.

Their dinner was finished by sunset. After, four guards commence their shift by patrolling the river bank until 11 p.m. At night, they take turns to do the task.

Not having enough water, Vinh could not take a proper shower, no matter how sweaty he became during the day. He used a wet towel to wash his face and passed out in the hut, waiting for his night shift.

"To keep our border guards healthy, we take turns to go to the border station every two days to take a shower, rest and bring water back," said Captain Tan Sanh Nhan, leader of checkpoint 170 (3).

Lu A Vinh cooks while his colleagues are out on patrol. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Khau.

Lu A Vinh cooks while his colleagues are out on patrol. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Khau.

Several kilometers away, guards at border marker 168 (2) also face a shortage of water, even though they are closer to the border station. Water cannot be delivered due to the difficult mountainous terrain.

Lying between a mountain and deep valley, the 8-kilometer road with many hairpin bends is eroded by heavy rain.

So instead of taking water from the station, they found a nearby source. 

Some guards managed to locate a small spring a few kilometers from the checkpoint. Every day, border guards use their spare time walking to the spring, bringing along cans to get water.

"Water is contaminated with limestone, so we have to filter it many times before using," said Major Le Van Khuong. He added the water is never clean enough since there is always a layer of white powder in their kettle after several days.

When it comes to showering, Khuong and his colleagues have little choice, with the nearby river too polluted to enter.

Lieutenant Colonels Dinh Cong Vy and Tong Hong Van at checkpoint 168(2) use cans to transportwater from the spring. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Khau.

Lieutenant Colonels Dinh Cong Vy and Tong Hong Van at checkpoint 168(2) use cans to transport water from the spring. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Khau.

Lieutenant Colonel Dinh Van Lao, working at Ta Gia Khau border station, said their working location resembles a "dry Truong Sa island" due to harsh weather conditions and water shortage. The soil could not hold any water when it rains while the whole region only has one source of water on Phin Chu Mountain, five kilometers away.

Captain Kieu Phi Hung, deputy commander and chief of staff of Lao Cai Border Guard, could not hide his tears when talking about his fellows working at checkpoints amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

"The weather is so harsh that plants cannot survive, residents moved to other locations, but border guards stay there, finishing their task without any complaints."

The province has set up 41 medical checkpoints, located along the 182-kilometer border with China. Every day, guards, militias, etc. help prevent people from illegal entry.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, 240 Covid-19 patients have been reported, of which 90 have been discharged from hospital.

To date, the Covid-19 pandemic has claimed more than 64,000 lives in over 200 countries and territories.

 
 
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