by Thanh Hai
HA NOI (VNS)— Do Thi Thuy Duong is only 12 years old but every day she rows her basket boat to school, just like many other classmates who live at the Cua Van floating fishing village in Hung Thang Ward, Ha Long City, northeastern Quang Ninh Province.
|A view of Do Thi Thuy Duong's home village of Cua Van. — VNS Photo Thanh Hai
Located about 20km offshore in the famous tourist destination of Ha Long Bay, Duong's school is a simple 30 square metre room, a floating house that's part of the Cua Van Primary School in Cua Van fishing village.
Rowing and swimming are basic skills that every child living in the village must have, and while awareness on safety issues related to living in a floating village is high, environmental protection issues are only recently getting the focus they deserve.
Duong and her classmates have recently learned about environmental protection during extra-curricular classes held at her school.
"I was taught how to use a Sacchi disk, which is a circular disk used to measure water purity in oceans and lakes, and I also found out how to wash up the dishes in a way that uses less dish-washing liquid, which can be harmful to the environment when discharged into the sea," said Duong.
"My teachers taught us that we should collect floating garbage and nylon bags floating in the sea as well as not discharge waste into the sea to keep the water clean and beautiful.
"Environment protection is very important to us because Ha Long Bay is where we were born and where we live."
Duong's teacher, Nguyen Thu Huyen, is one of three teachers who have volunteered to teach students at Cua Van Village since last August.
Besides the usual curriculum, Huyen has taught her students environment protection skills and the importance of keeping Viet Nam clean and beautiful.
While most of the parents in the village are illiterate, their children have benefited from more education thanks to efforts of the local authorities.
Most of Cua Van village's people had little access to knowledge or information on environmental protection compared to mainland people due to high illiteracy rates and poor living conditions, said Huyen.
Duong and nearly 60 other students who are studying at the floating school are the descendants of 131 fishing families who have lived from generation to generation in floating boat villages in the Cua Van area.
"Lessons in environmental protection are more important to Duong and her classmates compared to other students in urban areas as they live on the sea and they love the sea, so they should know how to protect the sea environment," she said.
Huyen said that through simple lessons on waste classification and ways to save clean water, children living in Cua Van Village will know how to live in a more environmentally friendly way.
"Environment protection skills that I taught my students will be useful for them for their whole lives," she said. "They also know that protection of the environment of Ha Long Bay means they are protecting the future life of local residents."
Work on raising awareness on environmental issues in Cua Van Village benefited from a 3-year project on building a community-based recycling-oriented system in Ha Long Bay funded by the Japan International Co-operation Agency.
The project, which will end later this month, aims to strengthen awareness of environment protection at the Cua Van and Vong Vieng fishing villages as well as among workers on about 500 tourism boats in Ha Long Bay.
Head of Cua Van Residential Area Nguyen Van Long said many local people no longer discharge waste directly into the sea and instead classify it into two separate waste bins before disposing of it in designated places.
"Community awareness has been improved so much, from students to their parents, thanks to the JICA project," said Long.
"Many parents even volunteer to join their children in collecting floating rubbish in the sea."
Project staff provided more than 300 waste bins to residents of Cua Van and Vong Vieng villages.
The Ha Long Bay Tourism Management Board said that around 20 tonnes of domestics solid waste have been collected daily from four fishing villages with 600 households along with waste from tourism boats in the bay. This waste is then sent to mainland for processing.
Sacchi disks have also been provided to 500 tourism boats with the aim of collecting data on water purity for the provincial environment research centre.
The project's chief adviser, Yoichi Iwai, said local people knew that something had to be done to better protect the environment.
"However, how to change their awareness into action is still a big task for Quang Ninh Province," said Iwai.
He said it would take five years before people could see a visible change in the bay's water quality, while environmental education should be carried out in the community from generation to generation.
JICA is considering to expand the second phase of the project to all primary schools and residential areas in the mainland of Quang Ninh in an effort to turn the province into a green tourism area during the coming years.
The Quang Ninh People's Committee Chairman, Nguyen Van Doc, has confirmed that environmental protection would be a top priority in the province's socio-economic development. He said he hoped children at schools today would act as role models for environmental protection. — VNS