Man on a mis­sion to clean up canals

Viet Nam News - - ENVIRONMENT -

HCM CITY — Wooden stick in hand, with his wrin­kled and tanned skin, 78-year-old Phamï Vanê Tanâ is do­ing what he’s done for four decades. Pick­ing up trash.

A canal near where he grew up in HCM City’s Laïc Long Quaân Dis­trict, was once a place to swim, re­lax and have fun. But that was when he was a child.

Forty years ago, Taân looked out over the very same canal and saw some­thing very dif­fer­ent. Over­flow­ing with waste and wa­ter as black as night.

Lit­tle by lit­tle he would start to col­lect the trash. And not only would he re­move it from the wa­ter, he would then sep­a­rate it into two bags, or­ganic or not, to be col­lected and taken to the dump.

His mis­sion started small, clean­ing up only the sec­tion near his house. But this soon ex­panded, the Noâng thoân Ngaøy nay (Coun­try­side To­day) news­pa­per re­ported.

“Some peo­ple call me crazy but I don’t care,” said Taân who would col­lect the rub­bish when­ever he had spare time.

“I do the job be­cause I want the canal is alive like it should be,” he said, fear­ing if he didn’t col­lect the waste, the canal would even­tu­ally die.

Sup­port­ive fam­ily

What’s more was the smell. A hor­ri­ble odour fill­ing his nos­trils, more so when the rains came.

Taân said he also wor­ried be­cause the num­ber of waste dis­charged into the canal seems to be­come big­ger day by day.

And to add to his wor­ries was the lo­ca­tion of two pri­mary schools, close enough to the canal for the pupils to be dis­gusted by the smell.

Now four decades later, Taân’s arms still bear the scares of his labour, caused by bro­ken glass or other sharp ob­jects he’s picked up over the years.

But he’s not both­ered, claim­ing ev­ery­thing is okay as his skin heals quickly.

Taân’s wife said she at first did not know his job. She only knew when neigh­bours told her and dis­ap­proved of his line of work.

“I tell him it’s non­sense and I don’t agree,” she said.

How­ever, Taân did not change his mind due to her words. De­spite her op­po­si­tion, he still grad­u­ally car­ried on with his job.

One time, when Taân woke up

at a mid­night be­cause it was raining, he quickly grabbed his stick to go to the canal’s sec­tion near his house to pick waste.

Soak­ing wet through, Taân re­turned his house with a smile on his face, knowing he’d picked up the waste be­fore morn­ing came and saving his neigh­bours wak­ing up to a re­pul­sive smell.

At that mo­ment, Taân’s wife changed her mind and de­cided to sup­port him.

Taân said, “My wife’s sup­port is the big­gest mo­ti­va­tion for me to con­tinue do­ing the vol­un­tary job.”

“I think the happy mo­ment for me is when I hear the bub­bling sound from the wa­ter flow­ing over the canal with­out be­ing blocked by waste,” he said.

Taân, was once given a cer­tifi­cate of the Peo­ple’s Com­mit­tee of HCM City for set­ting a good ex­am­ple for oth­ers.

He doesn’t do it for awards. He does it be­cause it’s the right thing to do, and as long as he’s able, he’ll carry on mak­ing the Vi­etä Nam that lit­tle bit bet­ter for those who call it home.—VNS

Taân’s mis­sion started small, clean­ing up only the sec­tion near his house. But this soon ex­panded. — Photo dan­

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