A dozen of families are living in wet and ragged huts without electricity and clean water under Can Tho Bridge, the longest main span cable-stayed bridge in Southeast Asia.
Rickety houses under Can Tho Bridge
After the bridge was put into use, a group of households which sell boiled maize also formed under the bridge. They are considered “artisans” in boiling maize in the south-western region because their maize was highly popular. Most of passengers who use the bridge buy their maize.
After the rumour that eating boiled maize could cause diseases, the lives of these families in My Loi Hamlet, My Hoa Commune, Vinh Long District has become difficult.
A local resident Nguyen Van Thuan’s family lives in a 30-square metre house with three walls. It has only one bed, one old wardrobe and a jug to hold water. He has lived in the area for nearly 20 years.
Since the bridge was put into operation, Thuan and his wife began selling boiled maize. Now, the four-member family relies on the sales, however, the rumour has caused difficulties for their life, making their plan to repair the house infeasible.
Maize sellers’ children
Thuan’s neighbour Nguyen Van Binh has two children. Every day, his wife buys raw maize from Tra On District and boils them to sell on Can Tho Bridge. He said that, “Many people come here do not believe these huts are our houses. We hope that we can repair our houses one day, but with an income of just VND70,000-80,000 per day from selling boiled maize it's not even enough for us to cover daily expenses.”
The residents also lack clean water to use, while they also suffer from serious environmental pollution. Without electricity, the families had to put their money together to be connected to the power line from a household located on a nearby main road at VND250,000 (USD1.1) each per month. If they use more electricity than the agreed level, they will have to pay more. Electricity and clean water have become the dream of these families over the past ten years.
Mr. Thuan said, “We have been blamed for adding chemicals to maize. Honestly, we don’t know what they’re talking about. Our maize sells well anyway, so there’s no reason for us to do so.”
Preparing to take the maize for sales
He added that after the rumour, sales dropped by 50 to 60%. Each cob is sold at just VND1,700-2,100 compared to VND2,500-2,800 previously. Last year, his family earned around VND3 million (USD142.8) from selling maize during Tet, but this year, they earned only VND1 million (USD47.6).
Now, each family sells only a 100 maize cobs a day compared to 200 before the rumour began circulating. Due to the slow sales, a number of households have moved to other jobs such as porters and motorbike taxi drivers.