Mekong Delta struggles to find freshwater as drought, salt intrusion continue

By Hoang Nam   March 22, 2020 | 02:39 pm GMT+7

People in Ben Tre and Tien Giang provinces are relying on freshwater supplied by trucks since salt intrusion in rivers has made tap water unpotable.

In the Mekong Deltas Ben Tre Province, drought and salination have rendered channels and canals barren, while water supply has run out and tap water sources are salinized. Thousands are lacking freshwater and have to buy it at VND100,000-300,000 ($4.3-12.9) per cubic meter. Some individuals and businesses as of late have tried to alleviate the situation by providing people with freshwater sources free of charge.A chaland, which carries 1,200 cubic meters of freshwater, by a business in southern Binh Duong Province was transported to a park in Ben Tres Ward 7 to provide free freshwater to two reservoirs there from March 15 to March 16.

In Ben Tre, like much of the rest of the Mekong Delta, drought and saltwater have rendered rivers and canals barren or too salty. Thousands of people lack water as a result and have to buy it for VND100,000-300,000 ($4.26-12.78) per cubic meter. Some individuals and businesses are pitching in and providing water to people free of charge.

A business in Binh Duong Province, which neighbors Saigon, dispatched a barge with 1,200 cubic meters of water (pictured) to Ben Tre's Ward 7 to fill two reservoirs on March 15.

Ben Tre police have also deployed two firefighter trucks to take freshwater from the chaland and transport them to multiple locations in the province.

The Ben Tre fire department also deployed two trucks to transport water from it to many places around the province.

A worker control the valves of pipes that connect with water containers on a truck.

A fireman works the pipes to unload water from one of the trucks.

Hundreds of people in Ben Tre collect water from different vehicles.

People in Ben Tre collect water from vehicles.

A man helps a woman carry a water can onto a motorbike. A motorbike could carry 1-2 can, each with a capacity of 30 liter. The water could last a day for a family of four if used sparingly.

A man helps a woman tie a water can onto a motorbike. A motorbike can carry two cans of 30 liters each, enough for a day for a family of four if used sparingly.

Nguyen Minh Huan, 66, uses a cart to carry water cans.Water is now as precious as gold, so I have to carry them carefully. It would be a sin to waste even a single drop of water that people have brought here from hundreds of kilometers away, he said.

Nguyen Minh Huan, 66, uses a wheelbarrow to carry water cans.

He said: "Water is now as precious as gold, so I have to carry them carefully. It would be a sin to waste even a single drop of water that people have brought here from hundreds of kilometers away."

Tran Van Vinh, 74, uses a wheelchair to carry a water can back home, about 1.5 kilometers away. Vinh, part of a family of five, had a stroke years ago. His daughter-in-law lost an arm in a work accident, while his son works as a manual worker and his wife cooks for a local pagoda. Vinh often stays home with his 1-year-old grandchild.

Tran Van Vinh, 74, uses a wheelchair to carry water back home, about 1.5 kilometers away. Vinh had a stroke years ago. His daughter-in-law lost an arm in a workplace accident and now cooks for a local pagoda while his son works as a manual laborer. Vinh often stays home with his one-year-old grandchild.

Vinhs wife (R) pours the water into a plastic basin to store it.I ride my wheelchair to collect water every day. Its a little tough, but my grandchild has freshwater to bathe that way, Vinh said.

Vinh's wife pours the water into a plastic tub to store it.

He said: "I ride my wheelchair to collect water every day. It's a little tough, but my grandchild has freshwater to bathe that way."

Nguyen Bach Tuyet, 67, in Tien Giang Province, about 40 km from ben Tre, rides a bike for half a kilometer to bring freshwater back to her home.She lives alone in Vinh Huu Commune, Go Cong Tay District; her son works far from home. She has ridden her bike to collect freshwater for nearly two months now.Im old so my limbs are weak, I can only do one ride each day. I use water sparingly, but since I use it for bathing, washing and cooking, it always runs out at the end of the day. I just wish for the rain to come so people dont have to suffer so much, she said.

Nguyen Bach Tuyet, 67, of Tien Giang Province, 40 km from Ben Tre, rides half a kilometer on her bike to fetch water.

She lives alone in Vinh Huu Commune, Go Cong Tay District, since her son works elsewhere. She has been fetching water for nearly two months now.

"I'm old and so can only ride once a day. I use the water sparingly, but since I use it for bathing, washing and cooking, it always runs out at the end of the day. I just wish the rain would come so that people don't have to suffer so much."

A free freshwater source is situated in 56-year-old Phan Thi Thus home also in Vinh Huu. Its been there for a month now. Thu, whose family trades construction materials, deploys trucks to a nearby water company every day to collect the water and distribute them free of charge for locals.

Phan Thi Thu, 56, supplies water to the community for free at her house also in Vinh Huu. For a month now Thu, whose family trades construction materials, has been sending trucks to a nearby water company every day to collect water and distribute it.

Thu and her husband wake up at 3 a.m. every day to turn on the lights, so that people could come collect the water. The work stops at about 7 p.m. About 24 cubic meters of water is distributed every day.Since I was born, this is the first time I saw people have water shortage. For nearly a month now, I and my husband had to stay up late. Its tiring, but seeing how my fellow people have to suffer so much, I decide that I will help them as much as I could, Thu said.

She and her husband wake up at 3 a.m. every day and turn on the lights so that people can come and collect the water. They distribute around 24 cubic meters every day and the task takes around four hours.

She said: "This is the first time I see such a bad water shortage. For nearly a month now I and my husband have had to stay up late. It's tiring, but seeing how people suffer so much, I decided I will help them as much as I can."

Two women carry water bottles on their bikes.Drought and salinization in the Mekong Delta this year is especially tough, even breaking previous records in 2016. About 40,000 hectares of paddy for the winter-spring period in the Delta have been damaged, and about 95,000 families in the Delta now lack freshwater for daily activities. Five Mekong Delta provinces: Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Kien Giang and Ca Mau have declared emergency drought states earlier this month.Severe drought and sainization would continue to last until April, experts predicted.

Two women carry water bottles on their bikes.

Drought and salt intrusion are especially bad in the Mekong Delta this year, even worse than in 2016, which was an annus horribilis. Some 40,000 hectares of paddy have been damaged, and 95,000 families lack water for daily use. Five delta provinces, Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Kien Giang, and Ca Mau, have declared an emergency.

The drought would last through April, experts have warned.

 
 
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