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Ethnic minorities in Northwest struggle for potable water

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 6:33 am

Residents of northwestern mountainous provinces, especially Lao Cai Province that is home to many ethnic minority communities, are struggling to get water for daily use and irrigation purposes.

After washing vegetables, an ethnic minority woman pours the water into a bucket to take it back home for washing clothes (Photo: SGGP)

The region has been suffering a severe drought for several months now.

The worst hit areas in Lao Cai Province include Ta Gia Khau Commune in Muong Khuong District, Thao Chu Phin and Sin Cheng in Si Ma Cai District, Lau Thi Ngai in Bac Ha District and Minh Luong in Van Ban District.

Along the way to the Ta Gia Khau mountain village, dozens of residents can be seen carrying cans and buckets to collect water from tanks built under the ground to catch water flowing from mountain gorges.

At a tank close to road, Sung A Tranh and his wife were using ladles to collect water. A Tranh even jumped into the tank, but all he could see was soil and dregs.

His wife, Sung Thi Lenh, said that that they were still fortunate to be able to get a little of water while many others were having to travel four to six kilometers or even to other communes to fetch some.

There are many water tanks in the village, but they mostly contain garbage. Local residents have also put many jars out to catch rain water, but there has been no rain for many months now.

Another resident, Vang A Thao, showed a ten liter can of water, saying his wife had to wait a whole afternoon to collect it from a mountain gorge far away.

At several points, between 40 to 50 people can been seen waiting in a long line with cans and buckets to collect water from very thin flows, with each can or bucket taking an hour to fill.

Luu Minh Hai, deputy director of the Lao Cai Province Hydro Meteorological Forecast Center, said that the drought would continue until the end of March, 2010.

Outcome of deforestation

According to many experts, the main reason for the interminable water shortage in Lao Cai as well as in the northwestern region has been deforestation.

For many years now, residents have tried their best to plant trees, but have made slow progress, and the local forest coverage has dwindled alarmingly.

Lao Cai Province has built about 47,000 tanks and reservoirs to store up and provide water (not including irrigation works). In theory, these can ensure water supply for 70 percent of households in the province. However, thousands of these places have been left fallow because in projects near forests in the riverhead, there is no water to be found.

Dry weather conditions in the northwestern region usually last from November to April, and sometimes till July, the middle of the rainy season.

Over the last few years, the Lao Cai Province People’s Committee has evacuated hundreds of H’mong ethnic minority households from two communes of Ta Gia Khau and Din Chin of Muong Khuong District to lower-lying communes like A Mu Sung and Trinh Tuong in Bat Xat District, Ban Phiet in Bao Thang District and Son Thuy in Van Ban District, so they can settle down in areas near water sources.

However, the drought has spread to low-lying areas of the province as well.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

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