Ghost hamlets in the Mekong Delta

By Hoang Nam   August 29, 2016 | 02:05 am PT
Ghost hamlets in the Mekong Delta
Photo by Hoang Nam.
People have abandoned government-sponsored housing worth millions as the area is drying up.

At the center of the Dong Thap Muoi wetlands, also known as the Plain of Reeds, hundreds of houses built to shelter people from floods have been deserted by their owners, who have left in search of food and water. These empty residential areas are now referred to as the ghost hamlets of the Mekong Delta.


The hamlets began as a public projects in 2002 as part of government efforts to house and support people in inundated areas in the provinces of Dong Thap, An Giang, Kien Giang, Tien Giang, Vinh Long, Hau Giang, Long An and Can Tho.


Families living in vulnerable areas were given the option of purchasing brick houses sized from dozens to hundreds of square meters at subsidized prices. This area in Vinh Loi Commune, Long An Province has one hundred single-storey houses that were specially designed with solid foundations and flood-proof walls. 


However, only forty of them have been occupied in the last 10 years, while the rest are covered in weeds and some have started to collapse.


An unoccupied house.


Many are used a warehouses.


Some serve as garages...


...and duck and chicken coops.


Ironically, the main reason for exodus was the distance to water sources that have provided food for the locals for centuries. Tran Van Thin, a farmer who moved his family to the new area complained: "When we were living in the wetlands, we could pick vegetables or catch small fish from the river. We could also raise pigs and chickens, and grow plants in our gardens. Here we have enough land for housing, but we end up buying everything, starting from the smallest chilies."


A fisherman in Tan Hung returns from the rice field with an empty net. Another factor that has driven the owners away from their own houses is the low flood waters in recent years. According to Huynh Thanh Hien, vice-chairman of the Tan Hung People's Committee, lower water levels in the last decade have resulted in falling catches, while the majority of local people rely on fish for their daily protein intake. “People found they were left with no other choice but to move to industrial zones in of Ho Chi Minh City or Binh Duong to look for jobs with stable incomes,” said Hien. 


“Those who remain here are mostly old people and children who make ends meet by selling lottery tickets or making hyacinth baskets,” said the vice-chairman.


Abandoned houses can also be seen in another district of Moc Hoa. Since 2002, the government has invested VND900 billion ($40.3 million) to construct 165 housing complexes for residents in Long An's flood zone. 


However, the provincial Department of Construction said that only 50 percent were ever occupied, and 150 households later decided to return their new homes to the government and move to other areas.

Related news:

> Erosion gobbling up valuable farmland in Vietnam's Mekong Delta

> Vietnamese farmers indignant as Mekong Delta prays for flood waters to arrive

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