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Shifting sand dunes threaten to bury Quang Binh villages

QUANG BINH, July 27 — Vast sand dunes covering more than 100ha are threatening to bury three coastal villages in central Quang Binh Province.

Hundreds householders in one of the villages, Tan Hai in Hai Ninh Commune, have been struggling for years to deal with sand storms that are burying farming land, roads and even houses.

"Gusts of wind blow sand from the beaches to the village," local resident Nguyen Thanh Sam said, adding that he noticed the phenomenon in the 1970s but the impacts on daily life were becoming more and more serious.

He said there used to be lines of casuarina trees along the coast to protect the village from the sand, but they were destroyed by rising seas.

Since then, backed by strong winds, sand dunes appeared around the village, Sam said.

He said that thick layers of sand now covered much of the farm land, roads and had entered houses.

Sand hurt people's eyes and their skin and even became mixed into the food.

In the last 10 years, at least 30 families have moved house twice to avoid sand storms. Another 100 families are still fighting a losing battle against the sand. Some even spread canvas under their ceilings to catch sand that blows in through the roof.

Sam said he was worried that his family could not stay in the village any longer as the sand dunes were getting bigger and bigger.

Another resident, Mai Minh Dang, 32, said that since he was a small boy, whenever the wind blew in from the sea it brought the dunes to life and they began attacking the village.

He said that many houses in his neighborhood, including those of his relatives, the commune's health centre and community meeting hall, were unused.

Residents who once earned their living by fishing and growing sweet potatoes have now left home to work in southern provinces or abroad.

Another local resident Nguyen Tieu, 60, said that in 2005, a sand storm poured sand into my house, which was about 100 metres from the coast.

"It buried my casuarina garden, my pond, grounds. It even left sand deposits throughout his house," he said, adding that the images still obsessed him and other family members even though they had all moved.

Vice chairman of the commune People's Committee Pham Van Lieu said that local dunes occupied more than 100ha, affecting the coastal villages of Tan Hai, Tan Dinh and Xuan Hai.

The commune said it could not afford VND500 million (US$ 24,000) to buy saplings to plant protective trees in the area.

As temporary solutions, local authority and residents could only remove the sand after each sand storm occurred.

However, it is now difficult for the trees to survive through storms with strong sea winds and big waves.

Residents are also now faced with saltwater intrusion and soil erosion.

Nguyen Ngoc Giai, secretary of the provincial Flood and Storm Prevention and Control Steering Committee, said despite the difficulties, growing trees seemed to be the only solution to the problem. (PNA/VNS)

DCT/ebp

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