ActionAid-sponsored Bridge Improves Living Conditions in Isolated Northern Village

The construction of this bridge in Ban Thang village, Ha Giang province, has provided a great solution for the community, eliminating concerns about floods and landslides during the rainy and stormy seasons.

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The concrete bridge built by ActionAid Vietnam in 2022 to avoid rain and floods in Ban Thang village (Tung Vai commune, Quan Ba district, Ha Giang province) has been described as solid and safe by the villagers.

Minimize Anxiety

We arrived at Ban Thang village on a foggy morning in early March, crossing winding and dangerous roads. The village is separated from other villages in the district by a winding stream, and to enter the village, we had to cross a bridge. The reinforced concrete bridge, 2.5m wide and 9m long, is equipped with sturdy railings on both sides, providing convenience for travelers.

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

As Then Thi Cham, a Nung ethnic resident of Ban Thang village, guided us into the village, she explained to Thoi Dai newspaper’s reporter that the old bridge in the village was constructed in 2012 using two L-shaped iron beams recycled from the broken bridge on Highway 4C. The bridge quickly deteriorated due to poor quality. The iron bars rusted, and the two bridge piers made of dry stone gradually weakened over the years. The absence of barriers on both sides of the bridge posed a significant danger to children and the elderly.

“During the rainy season, floodwaters rise rapidly and submerge the bridge, cutting off all travel routes for the villagers. For every three days of rain, we would experience two days of complete isolation. As the water gradually recedes, the bridge across the stream becomes precarious with just two iron bars. Everyone is afraid, but if we don’t cross, all our daily activities would have to halt. Every time my family hears the weather forecast predicting rain and floods, we become extremely anxious,” Cham said.

This fear is shared by many people in Ban Thang village.

In recognition of the difficulties faced by the locals, ActionAid Vietnam provided more than VND 300 million (USD 12,160) for materials, and over 200 people contributed to the construction of a concrete bridge across the stream in February 2021. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the project did not officially start until August 2022. After over two months of construction, the bridge was completed and put into use.

Since the completion of the new bridge, everyone in the village has been happy and excited. Lu Chieu Doan, a resident of Ban Thang village, mentioned that the sturdy concrete bridge has made him feel more comfortable and confident when crossing. He can now ride a motorbike and transport heavy furniture across the bridge without any worries.

Since the concrete bridge was built, people in the village can travel conveniently, safely, and no longer have to worry about isolation during the rainy season. Photo: Mai Anh

Community-based Approach

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

The bridge has provided safe passage for over 130 children in Ban Thang village, allowing them to attend school without fear and enabling better access to public services for the locals. It has also diversified job opportunities and decreased security challenges resulting from natural disasters.

The community-based disaster prevention model focuses on encouraging people in the community to be proactive and actively participate in identifying and analyzing natural disaster risks, as well as planning, implementing, and monitoring activities. This approach aims to reduce vulnerability and enhance the community’s ability to respond and adapt to the impacts of natural disasters.

“Each village has its own unique difficulties, and the needs of the people vary. To ensure the most practical and suitable benefits for each area, ActionAid will continue to replicate this approach, starting with people’s opinions, and collaborate with locals to determine the best priorities and solutions. Through this process, we can support them in realizing these solution models,” shared Thao.

Do Quang Dung, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Quan Ba district, explained that the district faces difficulties due to its terrain, which makes it prone to landslides, flash floods, and heavy rain. Strong winds and tornadoes also cause significant damage to people’s lives and property.

With the support of ActionAid Vietnam and the Aid for Social Protection Program Foundation Vietnam (AFV), the district has implemented several community-based natural disaster prevention models since 2008. These include the solar lighting model, training on natural disaster risk assessment with community participation, and conducting natural disaster prevention exercises in communities and schools. More than 40,000 local people have participated and benefited from these initiatives. The total budget for support is up to VND 31.7 billion (USD 1.2 million).

Dung expressed his hope that Quan Ba district will continue to receive support from ActionAid Vietnam and AFV in providing 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 expressed his wish for the implementation of more new models to enhance the lives of the local community.

According to the representative of the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM) – the specialized and functional unit for relationships with foreign non-governmental organizations and the mobilization of aid, under the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, ActionAid has made significant contributions to hunger eradication, poverty reduction, and development support during its more than 30 years of operation in Vietnam.

Since 2002, ActionAid has been implementing support programs in Ha Giang province, which have received high praise from the local community, contributing to improving the material and spiritual quality of the people’s lives. The concrete flood-resistant bridge model in Ban Thang village was built to cater to local needs, providing a safe means for children to go to school. The community-based project model has also helped raise awareness among the people and local authorities about environmental protection and the causes of climate change.

In 2023, ActionAid became the 27th member and the 23rd international member of the Partnership for Disaster Risk Reduction, as established under Decision No. 3922/QD-BNN-TCCB dated October 11, 2019, by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, with over 20 international organizations participating, in addition to 4 ministries.

Hannah Nguyen