Power lines in central Da Nang City's Hoa Vang District. Poor investment and inadequate maintenance have rendered the country's rural grid unsafe. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha
CUU LONG DELTA— Negligence and the use of electricity to trap rats or catch fish have claimed the tragic deaths of many people in rural areas. But electricity companies said the underlying problem was low investment and lack of maintenance of low and medium voltage electricity grids.
Angry with the infestation of rats on his rice field, farmer Nguyen Thanh Long in Dong Thap Province's Hung Dong hamlet electrified a rice field with fuse wire to destroy the rodent infestation.
Unfortunately, Long himself was electrocuted when hunting for frogs on the night of January 1, 2010.
Another victim Nguyen Ut Muoi was also electrocuted recently in Dong Thap Province. The man was using electricity to kill rats as they had been eating his ducks.
Electrocution also killed Le Thanh Hat in Soc Trang Province's Ngoc To Commune when he was trying to move an electricity wire connected from the power grid to his house to a higher place.
Statistics released by the communal People's Committee showed at least four people had been electrocuted because of negligence in the past two years.
Committee chairman Nguyen Trung Thanh said thousands of households had illegally connected electricity lines to shrimp ponds for lighting and powering water pumps.
The chairman admitted the number of electrical accidents had not decreased despite the local authority continuing to educate people about electrical safety measures.
An official from Dong Thap provincial Electricity Company Vo Van Hong blamed the unsafe condition of the rural power grid as a major cause of electrical accidents in addition to the negligence of the locals.
Although official figures about the number of electrical accidents are not available, Hong said accidents had plunged since the company took over the control of provincial power grid from local government and co-operatives.
"The company has regularly upgraded and repaired the provincial grid," he said.
Only one commune out of 144 has not yet been put under the company's control.
Management over low and medium voltage electricity grids had for a long time been mostly under the responsibility of local authorities and co-operatives.
Hong said these power grids had been seriously downgraded because of a lack of investment and repairs. They also failed to be constructed using proper safety standards. The wiring lacked the capacity to cope with high voltages, and the quality and type used varied based on location, he added.
Despite low and medium voltage electricity grids being recognised as posing substantial safety concerns, little action had been taken.
Deputy director of Hau Giang province's Industry and Trade Department Le Chi Cong said electricity co-operatives in the province had only gradually transferred management over to the provincial electricity company as the Law on Electricity required.
Yet Cong said it would take time before the transfer was finished.
Only 93 per cent of households in the province had been connected to the power grid. Cong said the number of households using unsafe electricity supplies still accounted for a high proportion of users, and were mostly in mountainous and remote areas.
In Can Tho City, meanwhile, about VND90 billion (US$4.2 million) has been invested in the provincial power grid over the past five years.
However, a large number of locals still continue to have a blase approach to electricity. Many have illegally connected to power grid to avoid paying electricity bills.
According to deputy director of Can Tho City's Industry and Trade Department Duong Nghia Hiep, management by the provincial electricity company would only be completed by the end of this year.
According to Electricity of Viet Nam, it has taken over the management of low voltage electricity grids in 7,000 of the 9,106 communes nationwide. — VNS