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"Chau Doc Stilts" II

Monia Lippi | Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, An Giang Province, Viet Nam

These images are part of “Chau Doc Stilts” project that is about the stilts houses architecture and their inhabitants, across the river from Chau Doc City, located in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, on the Cambodian border. This community lives along the Vinh Te canal and the Hau River, that is a tributary of the Mekong River.

These distinct simple architectures are built on wooden or cement stilts up to 20 feet tall, anchored to the ground to resist to the strong currents during the monsoons.

I became fascinated by the front of these colorful houses, the simple interiors and the things that happen underneath, between and behind each house, where there are also floating houses connected by "Monkey bridges".

This is an example of how millions of people in this country live dependent on the rivers’ water, especially in the Delta, that is an area very vulnerable to climate change and the plan to build more then 70 dams on the Mekong basin will effect seriously their life for the lack of water.

Personal project.

“Chau Doc Stilts” project is about a Stilt House Community, that is a necessary and natural village developed along the Hau River and the Vinh Te canal banks of Chou Doc. The Hau River, called also Bassac, is a tributary of the Mekong River running parallel to the sea.

These architectural structures, built on stilts to accommodate the annual Mekong River floods, were traditionally made in wood on tall bamboo poles, but are now increasingly built of corrugate iron. They usually have a front porch, one or two spacious rooms and a deck on the river side. At low tide, the front house is regularly accessed via ladder from the ground street onto the porch. During the high tide, people just sail right up to the back deck or the from porch with their boat. The small streets in front of the houses, along the bank, are full of life and different situations and many activities happen in the river: people come and go, fish, transport rice, vegetables, animals and materials, wash clothes, bathe or swim.

I tried to understand and photograph the spirit of this place, from many points of view, relateting to the river and the daily life of these peaceful buddhist inhabitants in their simple houses on stilts. This is an example of how millions of people in this country live dependent on the water, especially in the Mekong Delta.

There is a plan to build more then 70 dams on the Mekong basin in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to produce clean energy. However ecological and cultural devastation will be an inevitable cause of these projects. People would be obligated to move to resettlement villages far from the lives they have built organically in nature. They will lose not only their village, their land, their job, but also all their ancient culture and spiritual traditions, that depend on the river’s life.

The people who live off the big river will not be the only ones affected. The dams will have a negative impact on the entire Mekong and its tributary ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam. The Mekong Delta is a network of canals and waterways, rice fields, small roads and tribal villages. This huge area, after having been ravaged and ecologically devastated by the war 50 years ago, is now intensively farmed and green again where 20 million people live.

The impact of the dams will also increase problems related to climate change. As in the rest of the world, these countries that share the lower Mekong basin are recording more extreme weather, hotter temperatures and heavier tropical rains. The Delta is also effected by rising sea level, with higher tides flooding agricultural land, increasing the salinity of the soil, adversely affecting fish and rice farming and contaminating drinking water. The most populated areas in Vietnam, both rural and urban, including Ho Chi Minh City – one of the 10 cities in the world most vulnerable to climate change – will have increasingly severe floods. Even though the dangerous consequences of these proposed dams are clear, they are being ignored in the name of political and economic interests.

What you see in these photographs, may, sooner then we think, no longer exist in this way.

I developed this project in different sections, uniting similar moments and these 30 images are part of the - Floating Houses and Stilts - section.

In the whole project there is also the - People’s House, Interiors, Street scenes - section.

To see the  "Chau Doc Stilts" project: www.monialippi.com


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