The blooming lucrative business of raising edible-nest swiftlets has led Mekong Delta families to race to turn their own homes into potential birdhouses—a process in which they play an all-day siren call to attract the birds. — Photo baosoctrang.org.vn
HCM CITY — The blooming lucrative business of raising edible-nest swiftlets has led Mekong Delta families to race to turn their own homes into potential birdhouses—a process in which they play an all-day siren call to attract the birds.
Many in the neighbourhoods have had enough of such extreme noise pollution.
“My house is adjacent to a neighbour’s hosting the swiflet. The noise played by the bird-calling machine round-the-clock was so unbearable,” Nguyễn Thị Tuyền, living in Sóc Trăng City in the province of the same name, complained to Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“My daughter is currently at the sixth-grade. She was having headaches all the time and could not study at night. It (the siren) kept repeating day after day.”
The agonising situation was not unique to Tuyền’s neighbourhood. Complaints over the noise pollution caused by the giant birdhouses raised the temperature of the meetings of the people’s councils at both the city and provincial levels across different provinces in the Mekong Delta: from Tiền Giang and Kiên Giang to Long An and Sóc Trăng. The protests, however, came to little avail as more and more households are lured into the highly profitable business.
In nature, the edible-nest swiftlet makes its nest by sticking its own saliva strands onto the wall of a cave. But as the demand for the nest, which is widely believed to be very rich in nutrition and offers extraordinary health benefits, has grown, people figured out a way to host the birds by building big swiftlet houses.
Bird raiser Nguyễn Hiếu in the Gò Công Township of Tiền Giang Province said that the average price of the cleaned bird nest reached VNĐ35 million (US$1,550) a kg.
A lucky household that lured in more swiftlets than normal could possibly harvest up to five kgs of nest with a 100sqm-wide birdhouse, Hiếu said, and earn at least VNĐ200 million a month.
“Raising swiftlets has been so profitable. You just need to convert the highest floor (of the house) and lure in the bird, and you can earn some million đồng a month,” Gò Công Economic Division deputy head Trần Minh Hoàng said.
“That’s why the business keeps growing fast.”
Rạch Giá City in Kiên Giang Province, considered the biggest swiftlet hub across the Mekong Delta, witnessed a ten-fold leap in the number of bird hosts within seven years. In 2010, there were only 50 households raising the swiftlet. The number soon rocketed to more than 500 in 2017.
Facing calls from the irritated residents, the authorities tried to catch up with the booming industry and tighten management over the bird-raising business.
The city attempted to tackle the noise pollution, however, with a short-term solution: regulating the siren speakers to be active only from 7am to 9pm every day.
Rạch Giá People’s Committee deputy chairman Nguyễn Văn Hôn said that the city also forced 30 households in urban areas to remove their purposely-built birdhouses over the last three months. While the owners had asked for the authorities’ permission to renovate their house for living purposes, they in fact built a birdhouse for the swiftlet.
Yet those solutions could not stop the residents from building new birdhouses in Rạch Gia or elsewhere in the southern delta.
Despite tightened conditions that a household must meet in order to legally host the bird and a master plan on particular areas allowed for bird-raising, illegal bird facilities in Tiền Giang Province kept popping up in front of the helpless eyes of the local officials.
Mỹ Tho City Natural Resources and Environment Division deputy head Nguyễn Văn Trung said that it was very difficult to curb illegal birdhouses as there was not yet a legal basis for any penalties against such households. — VNS