ucanews.com reporter, Ben Tre
Updated: March 23, 2012 04:36 AM GMT
March 22 was World Water Day. Click here for a gallery of pictures that show the struggles that people of Vietnam face on a daily basis. Tens of thousands of people in a Mekong delta province have for years been suffering a severe shortage of clean water for their daily uses. Every day for the last two years Peter Nguyen Van Tan has spent 10,000 dong (US$0.50) on buying 20 liters of fresh water for his three-member family’s cooking and drinking needs. Tan, 45, who has for many years been in poor health since a motorcycle accident, earns 20,000 dong a day by making bird cages. “We have to use river water, which is dirty and has a bad smell, for washing clothes and having baths [and] we have skin problems,” he said. In the past they used river water for their cooking too, he added. However, Tan is luckier than his neighbors who could not afford to buy clean water. One of them, Elizabeth Nguyen Thi Ly, said “We have no choice but to use river water for our daily activities although we know it is dirty.” “We have no money to buy fresh water because we scrape a meager living from working on people’s farms,” the 53-year-old mother of one noted. Tan and Ly and many others in Cai Mon parish have been suffering a severe fresh water shortage for years. They have to buy UV-treated fresh water from local water stations. Twenty liters of water costs 10,000 dong. In other places in the region, those who cannot afford UV-treated water buy cheaper, "fresh" water that comes from rivers which are gradually being contaminated with salt seawater. Local people said that water from local waterways has been stagnant and polluted since 2005, when government authorities had a system of drains built on waterways to prevent flood water from the main river in rainy seasons. They said the government promised to provide running water for local people but they have done nothing so far. “It is terrible to breathe the bad smell from the waterways and use the dirty water for our activities. But we have no choice,” Anna Le Thi Hoa complained. People from the province’s coastal districts of Ba Tri, Binh Dai and Thanh Phu also face a serious lack of fresh water due to sea water getting into mainland. Nguyen Ngoc Phuong from Thanh Phuoc village said 2,500 local households buy "fresh" water for 100,000 dong per three cubic meters. Her six-member family tries to use 20 liters of fresh water a day, she added. The Southern Institute of Water Resources Research warned that in the second half of this month, salt water with salinity of 0.1/1,000 is expected to intrude into mainland in Mekong Delta provinces.