Vietnam News

Lack of water a devastating problem for Hanoians

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Nguyen Thi Phuong drives 70 km daily, from Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem District to her hometown in Phuc Tho District and back, to bring 100 liters of water to her family.

At her house in the capital, her family otherwise relies on a seven cubic meter water tank that drains 3-4 days before the water company refills it each week. Without her constant trips home, the family would be entirely waterless for the better part of each month.

Phuong has her husband bring four to five 20-liter water jugs to ask for clean water whenever he drives to Phuc Tho District to buy sugarcane for their family business.

Every bucket and container in the house is now used to store water for cooking and cleaning. At the end of the day, her family of three returns to Phuong’s hometown to shower and wash their clothes.

Nearly 150 families living in Phuong’s Phung Khoang Street neighborhood (Alley 159) face the same problem. The water outages in Trung Van Ward began at the end of September.

Hundreds of families living on Khuong Mai Street in Thanh Xuan District and Hoang Mai District, and at the Thanh Ha urban complex in Thanh Oai District, have also suffered from water outages since the beginning of October.

Some areas of Hoai Duc District have been enduring this problem since June, forcing residents to buy bottled water or face the risk of buying water from unregulated wells residents have recently drilled to cope with the shortage.

The longer the lingering issue continues to fester, the less anyone affected believes it will be resolved anytime soon.

A few hundred meters from Phuong’s family, Tran Quan, 32, recently paid VND9 million (US$365) to have his own well drilled and equipped with a high-capacity water pump to deal with the frustrating water shortages.

When the problem first began, the 32-year-old dealt with it by enforcing a strict rule on his family of four: “clean water must be reused four times.”

For instance, one bucket of water would be shared by all family members to bathe. They would use it for their newborn son first, then their daughter, and then the parents before finally the water would be poured back into the bucket to clean the bathroom.

As water only returned to the home infrequently and unpredictably – and sometimes in the middle of the night – Quan assumed the task of staying up all night to watch the water meter and gauge whenever there was enough to pump into the home and store for later use.

“I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week because I check the water meter every hour. Whenever I see it move I tell my wife to turn the pump on. I’m happy even if we get only a few liters,” Quan said.

On days when the family’s supply ran out completely, they’d have to use water from unregulated local wells even if they were unsure of its safety.

In Alley 126 off Phung Khoang Street, Thanh Mai, 65, and her husband are stuck with their unfinished 4-story home after renovations had to stop due to water shortages. According to her plan, the renovation was supposed to take two weeks to finish. Now, a month later, the house is still littered with construction materials, the walls yet to be plastered.

Not only does Thanh Mai not have a place to stay, but she also has to pay the workers VND600,000 a day per person.

Nguyen Ngoc Minh, the head of the 4th civil cluster in Trung Van Ward, Nam Tu Liem District, said that local citizen’s water supply is supplied by the Thong Nhat Cooperative Society, which buys it from the Viwaco Company. A coop representative said that Viwaco used to supply them 4,000 cubic meters of water every day, but the number is now half that.

Viwaco, which sources from Da River, has yet to make adjustments to the water shortage situation.

“We were told [by Viwaco] that there was not enough supply in the factories and they had to cut the water to supply for other areas,” Minh said. “There isn’t a solution yet.”

After over 70 years of living in the Hanoi University apartment complex in Thanh Xuan District, Ngoc Lan, 75, said that this is the first time she’s ever seen the elderly and children fighting each other over clean water.

After four days of no water, the complex was notified that water supplies would be available in homes every day at about 2-3 a.m. for 30-45 minutes. But that has not been nearly enough.

“Occasionally, I have to run over to Hanoi University to fill my buckets there. I was caught once by the school and they reported me over [the school PA system’s] loudspeakers. It was incredibly embarrassing,” the 75-year-old woman said.

With the water supply schedule moved to nighttime, Quynh Hoa, a first-year student at Hanoi University, was forced to change her schedule because the building she rents a room in does not have an underground water tank. She said that she studies or sleeps from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and then waits until water flows in at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. to shower, do laundry, and cook.

“If this situation continues a few more weeks, I’m going to think about moving somewhere that has enough water and electricity,” Hoa said.

Le Van Du, the deputy chief of Infrastructure Management at the Hanoi Department of Construction, said that the residential areas suffering from water shortages are mainly supplied by the Da River Fresh Water Company, which is having issues with their supply. They are short by 10,000-20,000 cubic meters of water a day.

Other reasons Hanoi has been suffering widespread water shortages include the fact that most new water supply projects are dramatically behind schedule, and the water industry is not attracting investors.

While waiting for the situation to be fixed, Phuong and her family are still persistently traveling 70km every day to bring back 100 liters of clean water. Meanwhile, Tran Quan is continuing to pump water from his new well to use.

“Everyone wants to use clean water, but we have no choice other than to use water from the well. I know it’s dirty, but it’s better than nothing,” Quan said.

By Quynh Nguyen – – October 29, 2023

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