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Student-led clean water initiative builds resiliency among floating villages

August 2013: Mr Duoc’s family is 1 of 23 families living in a floating village on the Red River near Hanoi. The village is difficult to access with limited electricity and a lack of basic services. A clean and regular water supply is almost non-existent in a rapidly changing environment like this.

“Water is a crucial issue, there are organisations that come to build filter tanks but the ad hoc activity doesn’t really help us,” says Mr Duoc. The fresh water wells on the edge of the river near the village supply water of inadequate quality through degrading filters.

Student power

Nguyen is a Grade 12 student at the High School for Gifted Students at Hanoi’s University of Science. As a member of the school’s environmental club, he is part of a growing network of students in Hanoi working on issues of environmental protection and climate change.

Nguyen joined a short-term training course organised by Plan Vietnam and Live & Learn in the second half of 2012, inspiring him to reorganise his school’s environmental club. High School Volunteering for Sustainable Growth (HVSG) was founded by Nguyen and 14 of his classmates.

The training course is part of Plan’s Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA), a 3-year project supported by AusAID taking place in 10 countries across the Asia-Pacific Region. It aims to build the awareness of children and young people about climate change and empower them to be agents of change in their communities.

Finding the solution

Mr Duoc first met Nguyen in January 2013. Nguyen could not forget his first visit to the floating village. Water was being taken straight from the river, only a small amount of which was cleaned through filters. Nguyen and his classmates recognised the vulnerability of the floating village to floods, rising water pollution and uncertain water flows.

Members of HVSG worked with villagers to renovate the community’s water filter tanks at 3 wells. A simple chemistry test revealed just how tainted and harmful the water coming through the filter was. The group replaced the old filters with new ones made from quartz sand, charcoal and gravel.

“We are thankful for what the students did. The health of people, especially children, will be more protected. They are so enthusiastic! Who could imagine these kids at such a young age can come here and work. We need a new generation like that,” added Mr Duoc.

“We are ambitious”, said Nguyen. “For the next project at the floating village, we aim to change behaviours towards littering and using river water for cooking and drinking, and also continue informal climate change education for children”.

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