Nguyễn Ngọc Đức collects waste on the canal and puts in into a garbage box before moving it to the city's gathering point. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Khu
HCM CITY — Normally, twice a day, Nguyễn Ngọc Đức, a 66-year-old war veteran in Bình Tân District, HCM City, collects garbage from the Chiến Lược Canal.
Of course with social distancing regulations in effect to blunt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Đức isn't doing his volunteering work at the moment.
He has been doing the work for six years, whether it's scorching hot or raining, without any expectation for rewards but only hoping to keep the environment clean and raise public awareness of the need for environmental protection.
Starting his work at 7am, he uses a stick to collect the trash, puts it into a wastebasket attached to his motorbike, then moves the garbage to a gathering point near Tân Hóa Canal, 3km from his area.
In the early afternoon, under the baking sun, the veteran continues his work and loads the rubbish in the city’s garbage trucks parked along the roads.
In 2013, Đức attended his first trash-collecting activity run by the local war veteran union on the occasion of the World Environment Day.
After a day collecting trash on the Chiến Lược Canal, he realised a day wasn't enough to clean the canal.
He asked for the union’s permission to clean up the canal every day.
“The canal has changed a lot. It used to be bigger with fewer bridges and fewer houses located on the two sides. The canal was so stinky then with dark water that water could not run due to many types of rubbish like domestic waste, plastic bags, bottles, cans and animal carcasses.
“It took me half a year to collect rubbish and drain the mud. What scared me the most was needles. I was lucky not to touch any of them, to only fall down the canal a few times and be hit by fallen tree branches or broken pieces of glass.”
Having done the work for more than 2,000 days, the old veteran knows which sections of the canal are most polluted.
“Now the canal is cleaner with fewer types of waste, mostly leaves, plastic bags, food wraps and face masks,” he told Vietnam News Agency.
His voluntary work has also set an example for the locals to follow.
Nguyễn Thị Lan, a local living along the canal, said: “Đức usually reminds residents to keep the environment clean. We also remind each other not to throw the garbage into the canal. Knowing that Đức’s work is meaningful to the community, many of us often give him water bottles and fruit as small presents to say thank you for what he has done.”
Đức said: “I used to be a farmer and get used to hard work. Used to be injured in the war and not scared of guns and bullets, there was nothing that I couldn’t do.
“I wish that I will be in good health to continue my cleaning work,” he said. — VNS