More than 600 households currently cross a rapid stream in the Central Highlands by pulling themselves along a thin cable.
During the rainy season, the Ea Rech Stream swells to more than 15 meters (50 ft) and up to four meters deep, separating the residents from their farms in Ea Huar Commune, Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province.
A nearest bridge is 15 kilometers away so local residents have installed a single cable to cross the river in a dangerously way.
Do Van Trinh, a communal farmer, said he almost dropped his motorbike into the stream recently after losing his grip while pulling the bike across on the cable.
“Several days ago, a man fell into the stream while crossing the river on the cable. Luckily, he was able to swim to shore," he said. "It’s impossible to rescue people from the rapids if they fall in and can't swim."
In Ea Huar Commune, two similar cables cross the Ea Rech Stream and are tied to either a tree or a pole on either end.
Nguyen Duy Tu, a communal official, said the stream almost dries out during dry season and people can easily wade across.
“However, the stream swells during the rainy seasons creating treacherous rapids.”
Even communal officials surveying land had to cross the stream by cable, he said.
“There has been no fatalities since the cable was installed several years ago," he said. "However, it is common for people to fall and get injured on the cable due to poor manipulation; several have lost their tools or fertilizer in the stream.”
Hanging on a thin line
Tran Van Hai, an official from Ea Huar Commune, said there used to be a temporary bridge across the Ea Rech Stream but it was washed away in a flood.
The residents installed the cable after worrying that a new temporary bridge would also be washed away again, he said.
In July of 2013 the commune reportedly asked the higher authorities for funding to build a bridge.
“Relevant agencies have conducted a survey recently and announced that there was a plan to build a bridge. However, it is unclear when the plan will be carried out. Residents still have to wait,” he said.
Meanwhile, deputy director of the Dak Lak Transport Department Do Binh Chinh admitted that a new bridge can't come soon enough.
He said that crossing the river via cable is very dangerous and his agency had asked the local authorities to remove the cables only to watch the residents reinstall them again.
“There are up to 300 temporary bridges across rivers and streams in Dak Lak Province. We need a great deal of money to replace them with proper bridges and that can't happen overnight,” he said.
Elsewhere in Dak Lak, people are also crossing rivers and streams on a cable in Krong Bong and Krong No districts.
“Recently, a woman was saved after the cable broke and she fell into a river in Krong Bong’s Hoa Le Commune,” a local resident said.