ActionAid-backed Bridge Brings Relief to Northern Villagers

The construction of this bridge in Ban Thang village, Ha Giang province, has brought much relief to the local community, as they no longer need to worry about the destructive effects of floods and landslides during the rainy and stormy seasons.

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Ban Thang village, located in Tung Vai commune, Quan Ba district, Ha Giang province, has benefited from the construction of a solid and safe concrete bridge, built by ActionAid Vietnam in 2022, to prevent rain and floods.

Reducing Anxiety

On a foggy morning in early March, we arrived at Ban Thang village, crossing winding and dangerous roads. The village is separated from other villages in the district by a winding stream, which necessitates crossing a bridge to enter the village. The reinforced concrete bridge, 2.5m wide and 9m long, features sturdy railings on both sides, ensuring convenient travel for the residents.

The concrete bridge leading to Ban Thang village. Photo: Mai Anh

During our visit, Then Thi Cham, a Nung ethnic resident of Ban Thang village, informed a reporter from Thoi Dai newspaper that the previous bridge in the village was built in 2012 using two L-shaped iron beams removed from a broken bridge on Highway 4C. However, the bridge quickly deteriorated due to poor quality. The iron bars rusted, and the two stone bridge piers gradually weakened over the years. The absence of barriers on both sides of the bridge posed a significant risk, especially for children and the elderly.

“During the rainy season, floodwaters rise rapidly, submerging the bridge, cutting off the village’s transportation routes. Whenever it rains for three consecutive days, we become completely isolated for two days. As the water recedes, only two precarious iron bars remain. Everyone is afraid, but if we do not cross, daily activities come to a halt. Every time my family hears a weather forecast of rain and floods, we become extremely anxious,” shared Cham.

This concern is not exclusive to Cham’s family but shared by most residents of Ban Thang village.

In February 2021, ActionAid Vietnam provided over VND 300 million (USD 12,160) to purchase materials, and more than 200 people contributed their efforts to build a concrete bridge across the stream. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, construction did not officially commence until August 2022. After more than two months of construction, the bridge was completed and put into use.

The new bridge has brought happiness and excitement to the entire village. Lu Chieu Doan, a resident of Ban Thang village, shares that the sturdy concrete bridge makes crossing more comfortable and confident. He can now ride a motorbike and transport heavy furniture across the bridge without worry.

The concrete bridge has made travel convenient and safe, eliminating the fear of being isolated during the rainy season. Photo: Mai Anh

Community-based Model

According to Hoang Phuong Thao, Chief Representative of ActionAid Vietnam, the concrete bridge model is just one of the community-based natural disaster prevention models deployed by ActionAid in Quan Ba district.

Since its inauguration, the bridge has provided safety to over 130 children from Ban Thang village while attending school, creating conducive conditions for learning and ensuring peace of mind. Additionally, it facilitates easier access to public services, diversifies job opportunities, and minimizes security challenges arising from natural disasters.

The community-based disaster prevention model emphasizes community involvement in identifying and analyzing natural disaster risks, planning, implementing, and monitoring activities, ultimately reducing vulnerability and enhancing the community’s ability to respond and adapt to the impacts of natural disasters.

“Each village faces different difficulties, and people’s needs vary as well. To ensure practical benefits tailored to each area, ActionAid will continue to replicate this approach, starting with surveys to understand people’s opinions and collaborating with locals to determine appropriate priorities and solutions, supporting them in realizing these model solutions,” shared Thao.

Do Quang Dung, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Quan Ba district, acknowledges that Quan Ba district’s challenging terrain is prone to landslides, flash floods, heavy rain, strong winds, and tornadoes, causing substantial damage to lives and properties.

Since 2008, with the support of ActionAid Vietnam and the Aid for Social Protection Program Foundation Vietnam, numerous community-based natural disaster prevention models have been implemented in Quan Ba district. These models include solar lighting systems, training on natural disaster risk assessment with community participation, and natural disaster prevention exercises in communities and schools. Over 40,000 local people have participated, benefiting from a total budget of VND 31.7 billion (USD 1.2 million).

Dung expresses his hope that Quan Ba district will continue to receive support from ActionAid Vietnam and the Aid for Social Protection Program Foundation Vietnam to equip people, especially young individuals, with knowledge on natural disaster risk mitigation, environmental protection, climate change adaptation, renewable energy solutions, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. He also wishes for the implementation of new models to improve the lives of locals.

The People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), the specialized body for relations with foreign non-governmental organizations and aid mobilization under the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, has been operating in Vietnam for over 30 years. During this time, ActionAid has made significant contributions to hunger eradication, poverty reduction, and development support.

Since 2002, ActionAid has implemented various support programs in Ha Giang province, which have received high praise from the local authorities, contributing to the material and spiritual well-being of the people. The construction of the concrete flood-resistant bridge is tailored to meet the specific needs of Ban Thang village, ensuring the safety of children on their way to school. Notably, the community-based project model fosters responsibility among individuals in the community and local authorities, enabling environmental protection and minimizing the causes of climate change.

In 2023, ActionAid became the 27th member and the 23rd international member of the Partnership for Disaster Risk Reduction, established under Decision No. 3922/QD-BNN-TCCB dated October 11, 2019, by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. The partnership includes over 20 international organizations and four ministries.

Hannah Nguyen