Fair Water Access Promotes Peace in Cao Binh, Vietnam

CWS Vietnam | November 17, 2020

    Cao Binh is a Tay ethnic minority village in Vietnam’s northwestern mountains. Its name likely comes from its location. “Cao” means “high” and “Binh” means “flat”. So, it’s the flat area on a high mountain.

    For drinking water, people here use a small stream about a mile from the center of their village. The stream’s flow changes seasonally, so families often face water shortages. This is especially so in the dry season from December to March. Because of this, villagers do not care much about water quality. They care about the quantity they can collect.

    Not surprisingly, especially during shortages, water is a causes conflict. And, since water sharing among families was not a past practice, the situation was bad. And, since better-off households had money to build simple pipelines to tap upstream water, this left others without much, if any, water.

    Facing the challenge and opportunity to help Cao Binh families address its water crisis, CWS was blessed to have funding from our friends at Week of Compassion. This group in a long-time partner of CWS in Vietnam. Another partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, funds much of our work in Vietnam, so our partners were able to partner with us!

    With special funding in early 2020, CWS staff joined community leaders for a community needs assessment and water supply survey in Cao Binh. With findings in hand, Mr. Thang, the official Cao Binh leader, met with Women’s Union members, school leaders, respected villagers and People’s Committee leaders. And, with CWS staff, they thought through, discussed and planned a solution to their water crisis.

    In two community meetings, everyone had a chance to share ideas. Then, there was consensus for the design and use of a gravity-fed piped water system. In all, 43 families registered to join a new Water Users’ Group. Importantly, they also agreed to contribute their labor to dig trenches and transport materials. Additionally, each family agreed to pay 300,000 Vietnamese dong ($13) to buy a water meter and small pipe to connect the main pipe to their house.

    An operation and maintenance (O&M) team was also formed. Everyone agreed on a three-person team. Then, water use fees were agreed for operations and maintenance costs. Each family agreed to pay 1,000 dong per cubic meter of water used for the first 20 cubic meters, and 2,000 dong if they used more water. After these agreements, CWS helped the team create a water use and fee collection record keeping system to ensure transparency.

    Recently, repeating his thoughts from June, Mr. Thang said, “People are now satisfied with the water supply system. It is well designed and, as planned, easy to use and maintain. With meters [that show use], people are more responsible in using water. Also, homes at the end of the pipeline now have enough water. And village solidarity is improved and conflicts over water no longer happen.”

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