Climate shocks can make the lure of moving to the city even stronger

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CAN THO, Vietnam (AP) — Dao Bao Tran and her brother Do Hoang Trung, 11-year-old twins growing up on a rickety houseboat in the Mekong Delta, have dreams.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)Nguyen Thi Thuy offers prayers with incense at an altar on her houseboat before beginning her day in Can Tho, Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)The twins’ single mother, Do Thi Son Ca, left to seek work in Ho Chi Minh City soon after her children were born.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)On good days she makes about $4 — hardly enough to put food on the table.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)Moving away from the Mekong to bigger cities or even abroad for better prospects isn’t new.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)The twins’ mother had a new beginning when she moved to Ho Chi Minh City, finding a job in a clothing factory, marrying and having a baby.
Pham Van Sang, a food vendor who migrated from the Mekong Delta, prepares a noodle dish at his food stall in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)Pham Van Sang, a 50-year-old street food vendor who moved from the Mekong Delta, takes money from his customer in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)Vietnam’s government has approved a plan to strengthen the Mekong region’s agricultural economy, which produces about half the country’s rice and is critical to feed other countries, like Indonesia and Philippines, too.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)______The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations.

CAN THO, Vietnam (AP) — Dreams are what 12 year old twins Dao Bao Tran and her brother Do Hoang Trung have as they grow up in the Mekong Delta on a rickety houseboat. Tran adores K-pop, would love to travel to Seoul, and spends her nights watching Korean language videos. Trung desires a career in vocals.

However, Trung said that their expectations were “unrealistic” and that he knew he would eventually have to move to the city in order to try to make a living. “.

In the Mekong region of southern Vietnam, one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable areas, such dreams have a way of fading.

There is particularly uncertainty about the future for the poor. An A. Not N. According to a 2022 climate change report, there will be more floods during the rainy season and drought during the dry season. The situation has gotten worse due to the unsustainable extraction of sand and groundwater for building. Furthermore, farming in the lush delta is becoming more difficult as a result of dams hemming in the Mekong River upstream and rising seas eating away at its southern edge. According to a 2020 report by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, its share of Vietnam’s GDP decreased from 27% in 1990 to less than 18% in 2019.

The 17 million people living in the region frequently find it impossible to resist the lure of the city, where factory jobs offer higher salaries.

On Wednesday, January, in Can Tho, Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Thuy, a vendor selling steamed buns at a floating market, sets a fire on her boat as she gets ready for the day’s work. 17, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hang).

On Wednesday, January 3, in Can Tho, Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Thuy prays at an altar using incense before starting her day. 17, 2024. (AP Image/Jae C. On Wednesday, January, in Can Tho, Vietnam, Hong) Do Hoang Trung, who shares a houseboat with his twin sister and their grandmother, snoozes beneath a mosquito net. 17, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hang).

On Wednesday, January 23, Do Hoang Trung awakens momentarily to the sounds of his grandmother getting ready for a day of work on their houseboat in Can Tho, Vietnam. 17, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hang).

Soon after the twins were born, Do Thi Son Ca, the twins’ single mother, moved to Ho Chi Minh City in search of employment. She departed with her 59-year-old mother, Nguyen Thi Thuy. Since then, the small family has lived on a small houseboat since they were unable to afford land rent.

In the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta, Cai Rang, Thuy rents a smaller boat to sell meat and bean buns. Before the sun comes up, she gets up and steams the buns in a metal urn that is tucked into the middle of the boat over glowing coals. She then stands in the bow and pulls a heavy pair of oars to get to the market.

On Wednesday, January 23, before dawn, Nguyen Thi Thuy, a steamed bun vendor, sails her boat across a river to arrive at the floating market in Can Tho, Vietnam. 19, 2024. (Jae C./AP Photo). Hong).

She barely makes enough money to put food on the table, making about $4 on good days. Due to their grandmother’s inability to cover the tuition and their mother’s financial difficulties in the city, the twins have already missed two years of education. Thuy is worried about how she will get $170 before the rainy season because their houseboat on the Hau River, which serves as their only haven, needs costly repairs right now.

Thuy stated, “The storms are getting more violent.”. Heavy rains during the rainy season may require her to vigorously pump water to keep her houseboat from sinking. In order to avoid being battered if she were to stay anchored at shore, flooding forces Thuy to move the boat to a larger canal, but the larger canal has its own risks in the form of bigger waves.

Steamed bun vendor Nguyen Thi Thuy gives two to a U.S. tourist visiting a floating market. S. on Wednesday, January in Can Tho, Vietnam. 19, 2024. (AP Image/Jae C. During a sale in Can Tho, Vietnam on Wednesday, January 19, Hong) Nguyen Thi Thuy, a vendor selling steamed buns on a floating market, speaks with a customer. April 17, 2024. (AP Photo: Jae C. Hong).

On Wednesday, January, in Can Tho, Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Thuy, a vendor at a floating market, lifts the lid of her steamer to draw in customers. 17, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hong).

On Wednesday, January, in Can Tho, Vietnam, a bun vendor named Nguyen Thi Thuy rushes past another bun vendor to a passing tourist boat with her steamer lid off. 19, 2024. (AP Image/Jae C. Hang).

It is not new for people to relocate from the Mekong to larger cities or even overseas in search of better opportunities. However, following 1999, there was a more than threefold increase in net outmigration, or the difference between the number of people moving into and out of the delta. The complex reasons behind people’s relocation and the uncertain impact of climate change are points of caution for experts.

According to Ho Chi Minh City-based Mimi Vu, a specialist in human trafficking and migration, “climate change is both a catalyst and accelerant for migration.”. She claimed that in an area of Vietnam that is still less developed than other parts, it has harmed livelihoods and exacerbated inequality. The area lacks strong development foundations, such as high high school graduation rates, reliable access to clean water, and sufficient health care.

She remarked, “Every generation still faces struggles.”.

And there are no guarantees when relocating to the city.

On Tuesday, January, Do Hoang Trung traverses a dilapidated bridge composed of bamboo pillars and timber planks to arrive at their houseboat, which they share with their grandmother and twin sister, in Can Tho, Vietnam. 16, 2024. (Jae C./AP Photo). Hang).

On January 3, Nguyen Thi Thuy, left, watches her twin grandchildren, Do Hoang Trung and his sister, Do Bao Tran, as they arrive home from school in Can Tho, Vietnam. 19, 2024. (AP Image/Jae C. Hong) On a weathered bridge that links the land to their shanties houseboat in Can Tho, Vietnam, on Wednesday, January, Do Bao Tran’s pink sandals are positioned next to her grandmother’s. 19, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hong).

In the kitchen of their houseboat in Can Tho, Vietnam, on Wednesday, January 31, Do Bao Tran, along with her twin brother and their grandmother, grabs a cup. April 17, 2024. (Jae C./AP Photo). Hong).

After relocating to Ho Chi Minh City, the mother of the twins started over by getting married, starting a family, and working in a clothes factory. However, she and her spouse were eventually laid off as well, becoming just two of the thousands of Vietnamese workers who lost their jobs as a result of a decline in foreign orders. They returned to his hometown village after that. Ca, 34, is seeking employment but has never completed her education. She is unsure of their next course of action.

“My family is not wealthy. Hence, I try not to plan too far ahead. All I want is for my kids to have access to a proper education,” she remarked.

She was also absent from Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year celebration, and will not be able to assist her family with school fees or boat repairs for the time being.

According to Vu, the migration specialist, older workers who return to their villages following layoffs frequently feel that their struggles in daily life have “ripped off their rose-colored glasses” in the city.

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Nguyen Thi Thuy, a vendor struggling to make ends meet on a floating market, sits on her houseboat beside a river that frequently floods in Can Tho, Vietnam. 16, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hong).

On Wednesday, January 23, just before dawn in Can Tho, Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Thuy, a vendor at a floating market, stops her paddle for a moment. April 17, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hong).

This includes Pham Van Sang, 50, who moved to Ho Chi Minh City in his 20s from his home province of Bac Lieu after weather-related crop failure rendered rice and shrimp farming unfeasible.

He currently resides with his 51-year-old wife, Luong Thi Ut, in a room that is roughly 100 square feet (9.2 meters) and is packed with everything they need to run a food stand for city workers who work in factories. Their specialty is a potent fish noodle dish in the Mekong style, which he claims gives despondent factory workers “comfort” by reminding them of their former lives.

Sang claimed to be plagued by flashbacks to his childhood in the country, his hometown, and his family’s shrimp farming. “I feel sorry for the younger generation of kids and grandkids who don’t have any future,” he expressed.

On Monday, January 20, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, street vendor Pham Van Sang, who originally came from the Mekong Delta, makes a noodle dish at his food shop. 22, 2024. (AP Photo: Jae C. Hong).

In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Monday, January 21, Pham Van Sang, a 50-year-old street food vendor who relocated from the Mekong Delta, accepts payment from his client. 22 January 2024. (AP Image/Jae C. Hong) On Monday, January 22, 2019, Pham Van Sang, a street food vendor from the Mekong Delta, finishes up his work for the day and stands in front of a small altar in his Ho Chi Minh City apartment, honoring his ancestors. 22 January 2024. (Jae C./AP Photo). Hong).

On Monday, January 22, in their apartment in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Pham Van Sang, a street food vendor and immigrant from the Mekong Delta, chops vegetables for the next day’s business while his wife, Luong Thi Ut, speaks on video with their daughter. 22, 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hong).

Vietnam’s government has approved a plan to bolster the agricultural economy of the Mekong region, which produces roughly half of the nation’s rice and is essential for feeding nations like Indonesia and the Philippines. The plan calls for expanding fruit orchards and fisheries, constructing highways and airports to draw in foreign investment, and experimenting with new technologies to lower emissions from rice production while boosting yields and profits.

However, many people, especially the young, find it difficult to resist the lure of Ho Chi Minh City, the vibrant metropolis of 9.3 million people and Vietnam’s financial center. According to 23-year-old Trung Hieu, even people from the country view moving to the city—or even better, overseas—as the quickest path out of poverty.

Along with another young man from the delta, Hieu shares a dorm. In addition to working a 12-hour shift at a pharmaceutical parts factory, he also rides his motorcycle for a Vietnamese ride-hailing service for several hours each day. Despite his love of learning and desire to teach literature, his family’s farm income in the Mekong province of Dong Thap had drastically decreased over time. Upon his graduation, his family was faced with the decision of sending him to college or letting his younger sister complete her education.

In order to send money back home, he made the decision to relocate to the city. “I’m really happy, my sister is doing well in school,” he remarked.

At first, Hieu was confused by the city and missed his home, but over time, he came to love it. He said, “You survive by gradually adapting.”. Through hard work, networking, and communication, he is learning how to succeed in the city.

Nevertheless, he still aspires to attend college, realize his dream of becoming a teacher, and work in a delta school similar to the ones he and his sister attended. He predicted feeling more at home as a result.

He remarked, “Everyone wants to return to their hometowns.”.

After closing for the day in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Monday, January 21, Pham Van Sang, a street food vendor who relocated from the Mekong Delta, carries his cookware and other equipment to his apartment. 22 January 2024. (AP Image by Jae C. Hong).

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