Scarce water threatens Benedictines' livelihood

The monastery plans to petition the central government to return two nearby reservoirs
Scarce water threatens Benedictines' livelihood

A Benedictine monk looks at a orange tree affected by drought in Thien An Monastery on Sept. 6. ( photo) reporter, Hue
September 15, 2017
Benedictines in a central province of Vietnam are suffering a lack of water for crops and daily living due to drought and the previous government seizure of a dam they built nearly 60 years ago.

"We are very worried about our orange gardens that are in danger because water supplies have become scarce," said Benedictine Brother Stanilas Tran Minh Vong from Thien An Monastery located in hills of Thua Thien Hue Province. 

Brother Vong, 81, said Benedictines are carrying water from other places, dredging pools and digging more wells, but there is still not enough water for 1,000 orange trees in a three-hectare orchard.

He linked years' of low rainfall to climate change.

More than 100 orange trees have died from the drought and many others are shriveling up, the monk said.

Only 70 kilograms of oranges had been harvested this year compared to 10-15 tonnes from good past crops.

A tonne of oranges is worth about 30 million dong (US$1,322).

Brother Vong said orange cultivation is normally a major source of income for the monastery.

The 94 monks now have to buy water for their personal use and this is costing 6-8 million dong a month.

The monastery plans to petition the central government to return two nearby reservoirs.

Brother Vong, who has lived at the monastery since 1953, said provincial authorities "grabbed" pine forests including Thaddaeus Dam and Thuy Tien Lake from the monks in the early 2000s.

They only left them 5.5 hectares of land, including their monastery. They also cut the water supplies from the reservoirs to the monks.

Monks built the 10-hectare dam and 50-hectare lake in 1958 to supply water to their crops and other activities on what was then a 107-hectare property.

A local state-run tourism company built facilities on the lake, but they failed to attract visitors and have fallen into disrepair.

Brother Vong said the monks had on many occasions asked local authorities to return the lake for their use, however, they refused and maintained the government owns it.

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Last month the central government and the Ministry of Construction allowed the monks to repair a 700-meter-long road leading to the monastery. The monks had been seeking permission to do so for decades. 

The monks also repaired the iron-sheet roof covering a Marian statue near the monastery. Local authorities destroyed the roof in 2015.

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