Black pond a blessing for parched Delta beach town

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A black pond is the main water source for many people in Ha Tien beach town of the Mekong Delta's Kien Giang Province.

Despite the dark color, the water is considered a blessing by residents of the drought stricken town where there is a shortage of drinking water even in the rainy season.

Resident Cao Thi San said she buys water for VND1,000 per 30 liters for her six buffalos to drink. She buys it from a local business man who collects the pond water and puts it through a very low-tech purifying process to sell.

Even on rainy days, it still costs her some VND30,000 to buy water for the buffalos and her family.

But the problem doesn't stop there. San said her husband has been fined twice and their bikes were temporarily impounded for carrying bulk water cans.

Chao Sol's family who also live in the area spends VND150,000 a month buying fresh water.

Sol said he calls the water "fresh" only because it doesn't taste salty. " I don't know where it comes from or whether it is clean or not."

Nguyen Tien Phi, a teacher at My Duc Commune Junior High, said he buys "fresh" water, not "clean" water, adding simply that, "It's so good to have some water."

Students at My Duc Commune Junior High are advised to conserve drinking water so the school of 245 students doesn't have to keep refilling its VND120,000 eight-cubic-meter tank.

Some locals had unsuccessfully drilled for groundwater. San said the area has a lot of salinity and is contaminated with alum and that it has been very hard to make the land arable.

Nguyen Thi Gai, an elder in the commune, said locals have complained about the water shortage to the town government many times and some officials have come to inspect the situation but "things were never made better."

Resident Tran Van Hung said he and others of the nearby Thuan Yen Commune have to buy water from Ha Tien Cement Factory.

The price is double on sunny days and even reaches VND60,000 a cubic meter.

"Sometimes I have to fight to buy it," Hung said.

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