Flooding thwarted by dams, Mekong Delta flood-resistant houses stand unused for decades

By Hoang Nam   November 12, 2022 | 11:24 pm PT
Flooding thwarted by dams, Mekong Delta flood-resistant houses stand unused for decades
Flood-resistant houses abandoned in Mekong Delta's province of Long An, November 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
Around 100 flood-resistant houses built in the Mekong Delta have not been used for two decades as upstream dams have disrupted the eagerly awaited flooding season.

One afternoon in November, Nguyen Thi Diem, 32, and her husband took advantage of the sunny weather to fix the roof of a half-finished house in Ca No, a commune in Long An Province.

They used a piece of canvas to cover a leak on the roof of the house for which the basic framework has been completed.

Diem and her husband are from Ca Mau Province, the southernmost locality in the country. They came to Long An several years ago and currently earn a living by peeling the barks of trees for wood processing facilities. The homeless couple have taken shelter in an abandoned house that belongs to a flood-proof housing project.

Other houses nearby are in the same condition, half-finished and abandoned.

Across Ca No Commune, there are around 30 flood-resistant houses that are now used by locals to store things or as warehouses or poultry coops. Many of them have been damaged.

Around 40km away, Tan Thanh Commune also has dozens of such houses that have not been put to their intended use.

Tan Thanh’s chairman Vo Van Hien said the floods have not happened for years, which means farmers cannot go fishing or breed seafood and have no favorable conditions to farm rice. Therefore, they have left for other places like Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong, where they live in rented apartments and work in industrial zones.

The annual flooding of the Mekong Delta, usually arriving late July or early August and staying until November or later, has been a long-standing blessing for the region.

During the flooding season, the Mekong River would deposit silt in the delta before flowing into the sea, making the region abundantly fertile.

However, this regular flow has been disrupted in recent decades by the building of dams on the Mekong River by upstream countries.

Half-finished houses of a flood-proof housing project are abandoned in Long An Province. Video by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Between 2001 and 2008, the government spent VND5.8 trillion to build 146,000 houses in the low-lying areas of the delta in the provinces of Dong Thap, An Giang, Kien Giang, Tien Giang, Vinh Long, Hau Giang, Long An and Can Tho City, aiming to allow locals to move to higher places during the flooding season.

Those houses were sold at a preferential price of VND10-20 million ($400-800) each.

But over the years, a majority of these houses have been wearing a deserted look, with residents saying there is no need to evacuate to higher areas during the flooding season.

Nguyen Van Trang with the construction department of Long An Province said that over VND900 billion has been poured into such housing projects in 10 districts since 2002 and so far, only half of these have been occupied.

Provincial authorities are still looking for solutions to deal with the abandoned houses, Trang said.

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