Man spends 15 years on hydropower islet

By Dac Thanh   May 17, 2020 | 07:00 pm GMT+7

Forest guard Mai Van Hoa has resided amid a hydropower project in central Quang Nam Province for well over a decade.

Mai Van Hao, 61, has lived in the 1.5-hectare islet at the heart of Khe Dien hydropower reservoir since 2003, three years before the investor of the plant blocked Nong Son River for the construction in Que Ninh commune, Nong Son District in Quang Nam. The hydropower dam was built, the place I’ve been living turned into an islet amid a body of water, but I’m used to living here so I don’t want to move, Hao said.

Mai Van Hao, 61, has lived on the 1.5-hectare islet at the heart of Khe Dien hydropower reservoir since 2003, three years before the investor blocked Nong Son River for construction in Que Ninh Commune, Nong Son District.
"When the hydropower dam was built, my home turned into an islet, but I’m used to living here and didn’t want to move," Hao said.

Hao lives in his three-room wooden house sits by the edge of the islet surrounded by a forest in Nong Son district elephant and species conservation zone.  Mai Van Duong, vice director of the management board at the zone said the authorities used to conduct frequent raids to remove illegally established tents in the zone. But in the case of Hao, he is a special case because he has been residing here before the management was formed and he has also collaborated well with the local authorities in forest protection work.

His three-room wooden house is surrounded by a forest and lies in Nong Son District Elephant and Species Conservation Zone. Mai Van Duong, its vice director, said authorities used to conduct frequent raids to remove illegally established tents in the zone.
But Hao was spared since he resided here before the project commenced, often collaborating in forest protection initiatives.

Hao traveled 928 kilometers from his hometown in Dai Tu district in the northeast province of Thai Nguyen to Phuoc Son District in Quang Nam to dig gold in 1999. His wife and three children still live in Dai Tu. After a few futile years finding gold, he planned to return home but an unfortunate personal family affair took place, which he didn’t elaborate, made him decide otherwise.  Following a friend’s guidance, he went to Que Ninh commune in Nong Son district and put up a tent by a ridge. He started to fish for food and isolate himself from the outside world.

Hao traveled 928 kilometers from his hometown in Dai Tu District in the northern Thai Nguyen Province to Phuoc Son District in Quang Nam to dig gold in 1999. His wife and three children still live in Dai Tu. After a few futile years, he planned to return home but an unfortunate personal event made him decide otherwise.
Following a friend’s advice, he moved to Que Ninh Commune in Nong Son District, putting up a tent along a ridge from where he started to fish and isolate himself from the outside world.

The islet where Hao lives is less than a kilometer from Dong Truong Son road which is only accessible by a boat. There are two dry months every year so Hao cannot use his boat and has to walk about two kilometers circumvent the lake to get to the other side.  Duong said Hao is a fisherman and his life does not affect the forest in the conservation zone.  The management has not been able to establish a checkpoint [for monitoring the forest] on the lake, so we asked Hao to do the patrolling. When he discovers anyone sabotaging the forest, he always informs the authorities, Duong said.

The islet on which Hao lives is less than a kilometer from Dong Truong Son road, accessible only by boat. Two dry months each year force Hao to walk about two kilometers to circumvent the lake. "Management has not been able to establish a forest monitoring checkpoint at the lake, so we asked Hao to see to patrols. When he discovers anything amiss, he immediately informs authorities," Duong said.

Three years ago, Hao friended Mai Thi Ba, 56 and decided to live together. There is only one phone signal tower on the islet so the two have to put their phones in a box attached to the tower in order to catch the signal.

Three years ago, Hao befriended Mai Thi Ba, 56, who decided to move in. The couple has to place their phones in a box attached to the single communications tower on the islet to catch a signal.

Every day, Hao rows out his boat and catch a net for eel. On many days when I’m lucky I can earn up to millions from fishing eel, he said.

Each day, Hao takes out his boat to hunt eel. "Some days, when I’m lucky, I can earn millions of dong from fishing," he said.

Hao and Ba also rear chicken for food. Once or twice a month Hao goes out to buy fish sauce, salt and vegetables.

Hao and Ba rear chickens for extra sustenance. Once or twice a month, Hao goes to buy fish sauce, salt and vegetables.

Hao runs a generator at night for electricity at night as there is no electricity system on the islet.

A generator provides electricity at night.

In recent years, my children who are now grownups and settled down have told me to come home but I said no because I’m used to living in the middle of the lake, Hao said, adding that he will live here until the management board tells him otherwise.  Later on if I have to move to offshore then I will also live near this area, he said.

"In recent years, my children who are now grownups and have settled down told me to come home but I said no because I’m used to living in the middle of the lake," Hao said, adding he would stay put until the management board told him otherwise.
 "If I have to move, I would still stay close by," he said.

 
 
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