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Daily transportation for residents of a commune in Kon Tum is a veritable circus stunt


Two people glide on a cable to cross the Po Ko River in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum

Third-grader Tran Van Bang goes to school every day with the usual accouterments a school bag and a pulley.

The pulley is not to draw water from a well, but to hitch himself to a cable as high as 20 meters across the Po Ko River and sling himself 150 meters down to the other side.

He returns home the same way on another cable.

Bang is not training to be a marine in the army or an acrobat in the circus. The stunt is part of daily life for hundreds of residents of Dak Nong and Dak Ang communes in the Central Highlands Kon Tum Province's Ngoc Hoi District.

The residents rigged up the cable eight months ago after a storm last September swept away several hanging bridges over the river.

Dak Ang residents have to cross the river to Dak Nong to get to school and markets in the Ngoc Hoi District center, while many Dak Nong residents have to go in the other direction to tend to their farms.

"We use this unique way because it is almost impossible to cross the river by boats because of the fast-flowing current and the steep slopes along the river banks," said Dak Ang resident Tran Khac Chin.

Two cables, tilted in opposite directions, were attached to poles on the banks and residents bought individual pulleys to transport themselves, their children as well as farm produce and commodities. Three of these systems have been set up over the river in this area so far.

Accidents

Crossing the river with the cable and pulley has resulted in several accidents, including a recent one that injured A Phin, vice chief police of Dak Ang Commune and his young child when they were on the way back from his farm.

A pulley broke, sending Phin and his son to the river deep below. He was rendered unconscious from a head injury and his son suffered a broken arm. Chin of Dak Ang Commune said he and his two children rushed to the river and saved the father and child, carrying them to the hospital.

"It was lucky that we were there at the right time to help them," he said. There had been five similar accidents of the cable or pulley breaking, he added.

Construction of a VND20- billion bridge is under way at Dak Ang Commune some six kilometers along the river bank.

However, residents said they would have to walk the most common way of transportation here some 12 kilometers in a detour when using the bridge, while crossing the river by cable takes a few seconds.

Chau Ngoc Lan, an official of Ngoc Hoi District, said swinging on the cable was "too dangerous and threatening to people's lives." But he added that it takes time to build chain bridges and "the district's capabilities are limited."

More problems

Most Dak Ang Commune residents who use the cable and pulley system to cross the river come from a village that carries a temporary name "sub-area 154" with 21 households. Besides the transportation problem, they also face a number of other difficulties due to a lack of household records.

The community was formed in 2007 after a retired soldier, Nguyen Van Nhi of the north-central Nghe An Province, decided to settle down at this place, finding fertile land to farm on. Some of his relatives followed suit, and several households belonging to the Xe Dang ethnic minority also moved to the site.

However, these people could not get the household registration certificate from the district authorities an important document for obtaining birth certificates, enrolling in schools and engaging in other administrative procedures in Vietnam. Local authorities refused their requests without giving any explanation or reason for their refusal.

Sixteen-year-old Nguyen Thi Nhung said a local high school had refused to admit her although she had graduated from the secondary school.

Another resident, Nguyen Thi Loan, has been unable to get a birth certificate for her daughter who was born in 2008.

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