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Old man guards casuarina trees

Update: September, 19/2015 - 12:00

Most people aged eighty-six spend their time resting.

Not Nguyen Van Lan from Ha Tinh.

He looks after trees. Casuarina trees.

He planted many of them to stop seawater from flooding people's land.

Now he looks after them, protecting them from poachers who cut the trees down to sell them as logs.

Nguyen Van Lan has devoted his life to something different – planting the casuarina forest in Xuan Hoi Commune, Nghi Xuan District in the central province of HaTinh.
Nguyen Van Lan has devoted his life to something different – planting the casuarina forest in Xuan Hoi Commune, Nghi Xuan District in the central province of HaTinh. - Photo doisongphapluat.com

 

HA TINH (VNS) — Everyone has a passion, but Nguyen Van Lan has devoted his life to something different – planting the casuarina forest.

Lan is a resident of Xuan Hoi Commune, Nghi Xuan District in the central province of Ha Tinh.

At the age of 86, while people his age rest, he is still busy growing casuarina trees.

His forestry work began in 1978 when a huge wave broke through the Xuan Hoi dyke at his commune and people could no longer plant in the fields due to the flooding by salt water, Lan said.

"Fishermen's assets, such as their boats and equipment for fishing, were washed away and hundreds of families had to leave their homes. Obsessed by the dyke breach, I decided to lead my wife and children to set up a tent for housing and plant forests to help retain the soil in the village," he said.

At first, he borrowed money to buy a boat and gear for fishing. His business proved profitable, as it not only fed his family, but also created jobs for over 50 other families.

Without the sea dyke, saltwater levels increased, which made people uneasy. Witnessing people feeling helpless before storms, Lan wrote a letter asking local authorities to grant land along the coast for him to build a protective forest.

After visiting neighbouring areas to learn how to plant trees to protect the coast, he decided to purchase casuarina seedlings to plant, as he knew casuarina trees were used with much success to bind sand near seashores for controlling erosion and reducing the impact of storms on villages.

It was not an easy task, he said, adding that planting the forest was primarily done by Lan, his wife and their 11 children.

In the beginning, many seedlings died because of his lack of experience. However, he stayed in the forest to continuously water the seedlings and his efforts paid off with half of the forest's seedlings surviving.

Due to his lack of capital, he sometimes picked up casuarinas seeds and cultivated saplings by himself. Thirty years have now passed and his casuarina forest has spread over 10 hectares, from just one hectare in the beginning.

He considered each casuarina tree as if it were his son. Thus, he did not cut down any trees, regardless of whether they had grown enough to be harvested.

Whenever trees fell due to the effect of a storm, he felt depressed for several days, and then continued replacing them.

The existence of the casuarinas forest does not only prevent sand from drifting, while protecting the village from coastal winds, but also has made the soil more fertile, local residents said.

"Lan's casuarinas forest has been a shelter for us to do business without worrying about disaster," said Nguyen Minh Tam, who lives in Xuan Hoi Commune.

"My family lives in the commune, but I sometimes go to Lan's casuarina forest to collect leaves for cooking. Taking a rest under the trees' shadow, after returning from the sea under the hot sun, we find what meaningful work Lan did in his old days, though he was once considered "crazy", said Dinh Dung, another resident.

Uneasy job

People often said planting forests is not an easy task, while protecting them is even more of a challenge. And this is true in Lan's case. To preserve the forest, he had to pay a heavy price, including tears, sweat and blood.

Despite his age, he had refused to live with his children in the commune, instead living alone to protect the casuarina forest.

He said he does not sleep well at night because he is afraid illegal loggers might cut down the trees.

"I once have 7 teeth broken and a finger lost during a fight with 5 log poachers," he said.

In 2009, Nghi Xuan district advocated the building of the sea dyke. Lan was willing to cut down 3ha of casuarina forest, consisting of nearly 500 trees that were 5 years old, to serve the common interest. Then, he received about VND5 million (US$220) for compensation and took the job no one wanted – dyke security guard with no salary.

Lan said he has no intention of resigning from the job.

"I have the strength, thanks to the casuarina forest, for it acts as a green lung. I only wish that I was young and healthy enough to expand the forest. But like a lamp glimmers before the sea winds, my inner wish is that someone will take care of the forest after I die," he said. — VNS

GLOSSARY

Everyone has a passion, but Nguyen Van Lan has devoted his life to something different – planting the casuarina forest.

A passion is something you love so much that you don't mind how much time you spend on it nor how much money you spend on it.

Lan is a resident of Xuan Hoi Commune, Nghi Xuan District in the central province of Ha Tinh.

A resident of Xuan Hoi Commune is someone who lives there.

His forestry work began in 1978 when a huge wave broke through the Xuan Hoi dyke at his commune and people could no longer plant in the fields due to the flooding by salt water, Lan said.

A dyke is a wall that is built to stop water from flowing into an area.

"Fishermen's assets, such as their boats and equipment for fishing, were washed away and hundreds of families had to leave their homes

Fishermen's assets are things that fishermen own that could be sold for cash.

Obsessed by the dyke breach, I decided to lead my wife and children to set up a tent for housing and plant forests to help retain the soil in the village," he said.

If you are obsessed with something, you think more than it is normal to think about it.

 The dyke breach is the breaking of the dyke.

To retain the soil in the village means to keep it there and stop it from being washed away.

At first, he borrowed money to buy a boat and gear for fishing.

Gear means equipment.

Witnessing people feeling helpless before storms, Lan wrote a letter asking local authorities to grant land along the coast for him to build a protective forest.

Witnessing people feeling helpless means seeing them in this state.

After visiting neighbouring areas to learn how to plant trees to protect the coast, he decided to purchase casuarina seedlings to plant, as he knew casuarina trees were used with much success to bind sand near seashores for controlling erosion and reducing the impact of storms on villages.

To purchase trees means to buy them.

If casuarina trees reduce the impact of storms on villages, they stop the storms from doing too much damage.

In the beginning, many seedlings died because of his lack of experience.

Seedlings are young, little plants.

Due to his lack of capital, he sometimes picked up casuarinas seeds and cultivated saplings by himself.

"Due to" means "because of".

"Capital", in this case, means money.

Saplings are young trees.

Whenever trees fell due to the effect of a storm, he felt depressed for several days, and then continued replacing them.

To feel depressed means to feel sad and helpless.

In 2009, Nghi Xuan district advocated the building of the sea dyke.

By advocating the building of the dyke, the district announced that this would be a good idea.

 Lan was willing to cut down 3ha of casuarina forest, consisting of nearly 500 trees that were 5 years old, to serve the common interest.

By cutting down these trees, Lan was serving the common interest because that was what most people believed should be done; even if Lan, deep down, might not have wanted the trees chopped down.

Then, he received about VND5 million (US$220) for compensation and took the job no one wanted – dyke security guard with no salary.

Compensation means payment for something to make up for a loss.

Lan said he has no intention of resigning from the job.

Lan's intention is something he wants and plans to do.

By resigning from your job, you choose to no longer work there.

"I have the strength, thanks to the casuarina forest, for it acts as a green lung."

A green lung is an area with many trees and plants. Trees breathe, giving off oxygen which is why such areas are called green lungs.

"But like a lamp glimmers before the sea winds, my inner wish is that someone will take care of the forest after I die," he said.

When a lamp glimmers, it shines faintly with a wavering light.

WORKSHEET

 

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

1.      When times were tough, Nguyen Van Lan would pick up casuarinas seeds and cultivate saplings rather than buy seedlings.

2.      Nguyen Van Lan has even got into fights with people who want to chop down his trees at night and sell them as logs.

3.      Nguyen Van Lan and his wife have seven children.

4.      Sand does not drift around as much in places where there are casuarina trees.

5.      Nguyen Van Lan considered each casuarina tree to be his daughter.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2015










































 

 1. True; 2. True; 3. False; 4. True; 5. False.

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