Ly Son is Moving

TTXVN-VNA | 20-12-2016 | 16:22 |

Ly Son Island is brilliant in the lights. Photo: Thong Thien/VNP

More than four centuries ago, heroic soldiers of the Hoang Sa Flotilla from Ly Son Island used oil lamps while sailing to Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago to plant the sovereignty landmark of the country. For centuries, the oil lamps were closely attached to the life of the fishermen on the island. Today a system of undersea cables has been installed to bring electricity from the mainland to Ly Son Island, bringing belief in a bright future to this front island of the Fatherland.

The power cables touch the sea lawn on Ly Son Island
after crossing  a 26km undersea distance. Photo: Thong Thien/VNP


Over the past four years, I have made four working trips to the island district of Ly Son in Quang Ngai Province. I had assumed that the residents of this island which covers less than 5km2 earned their living by two main jobs, fishing and growing onions and garlic. But during my mission to the island where I attended the ceremony “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Hoang Sa soldier feast and commemoration festival) in 2013, I learned that one of the islanders had a strange job of operating a diesel engine to generate electricity. This job was only done by the family of old Vo Hien Linh in An Hai Commune and his diesel engine had lit up the ceremony for three nights that year.


I was told that the operation of the diesel engine is of great importance to the life of the islanders. Linh said: “I have been engaged in operating the diesel engine for 27 years. The engine provides electricity for the district funerals and wedding ceremonies. Whenever there are ceremonies on the island, I am the first person people think of”. This showed how significant electricity is for the lives of the people on this remote island.


In September 2014, I had an opportunity to go to Ly Son Island again. I heard the islanders excitedly talking about upcoming power supplied from the national power grid everywhere. I followed a fishing boat of a fisherman to come and see the installation of the cables at sea. The cable installation group consisted of a barge laying the cables and two large boats locating the undersea cables.


This project was implemented by the Prysmian - Thai Duong Joint-Venture, with the participation of experienced engineers and workers from island nations, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.


At the working site I met Ronald Dolocsaribu, an electrical engineer from Indonesia. He was a leading expert of Indonesia in laying undersea cables. Previously, he had been engaged in laying power cables from the mainland to the island district of Co To in Quang Ninh Province.


Ronald Dolocsaribu could speak Vietnamese. He cheerfully said: “I have heard from the world media about Ly Son Island and moving stories of Ly Son heroic soldiers who bravely rowed small boats to Hoang Sa to fish and protect the sovereignty of the fatherland. So, I am both curious and enthusiastic to take the task of building undersea cables for this strange island.”


Talking about the cable pulling, he said that the season of rains and storms was coming by the end of September, the sea always had big waves so the further the construction site was from the mainland, the deeper the sea and the more complicated the seabed topography was. In some places the sea was more than 100 meters deep, causing difficulties for the divers to locate the cables. However, with determination of the Prysmian - Thai Duong Joint-Venture and experience of the Indonesian engineers, the work had been implemented on schedule.


Only when the cables touched the sea lawn on Ly Son Island did Nguyen Hong Thai, General Director of the joint venture sigh with relief. He said: “As planned, we, contractors will switch on electricity on Ly Son Island in late September before the rainy season of this year. As of this time we are confident to inform journalists that the installation of undersea cables to supply electricity to Ly Son has been 99% successful.”

High-speed boats take tourists to Ly Son Island. Photo: Thong Thien/VNP

The remaining 1% as said by Nguyen Hong Thai was completed on September 28, 2014. In the presence of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the Central Power Corporation (EVNCPC), the main investor, in coordination with Quang Ngai Provincial People’s Committee held an inauguration ceremony of the project on supplying power to Ly Son Island District through undersea cables.


“Electricity has come” was a phrase that over 22,000 people in Ly Son mentioned most during those days. All islanders were happy and had their own plans. Pham Thi Huong, Vice Chairman of Ly Son Island District, said: “Before electricity from the national grid comes, Ly Son residents were “thirsty” for many things! The fishermen were “thirsty” for places for aquatic product processing and the farmers were “thirsty” for fresh water and an irrigation system for growing onions and garlic. The students were “thirsty” for IT and the civil servants were “thirsty” for the internet for their work. All island residents were “thirsty” for water in the dry season. Having electricity we have solved the problem of “thirst” for the island district.”


Tran Phuc Sinh, Head of Ly Son District Department of Education and Training said that power shortages had affected the teaching and learning of the teachers and students, especially in IT subjects. Previously, students on the island only learned IT theory and were not able to practice on computers. Having power from the national grid, the district’s education sector would implement and widely apply IT at schools.


At the end of the day, Vo Hien Linh phoned to invite us to attend an important ceremony at his house. That night his family held an incense offering ceremony at the Vo Family’s temple to inform the ancestors that his family would made the first fishing trip after 27 years engaged in the work of operating the diesel engine. Linh happily confided: “My ancestor is old Vo Van Khiet who was assigned by the King to lead the Hoang Sa Flotilla to Hoang Sa Archipelago to plant the sovereignty milestone in 1786. Now the island has electricity, so I abandon the job of operating the diesel engine to follow our ancestors’ traditional job of going out to Hoang Sa for fishing.


During the ceremony at the Vo Family’s temple I again met Vo Van Ut, the eldest son of the Vo family whom I had a talk with during my visit to the island the previous year. Ut told us about fishing and said: “Having electricity, fishermen like us are very happy. Now we no longer worry about lack of electricity for reserve battery charging, no longer worry about decreased prices or a price squeeze of sea products due to lack of preservation conditions. Moreover, the price of ice which is the most important material used to preserve fish is just one-third of that before.”


Previously, an ice block for preserving seafood on all day fishing boats was sold at nearly 30,000 VND on Ly Son Island. Since electricity was supplied to the island, an ice plant has been built, which sells an ice block at only 8,000 VND. This significantly reduces the fishing costs of 400 ships of large capacity in the island district, contributing to increasing the income of fishermen.


The story about electricity continued at the temple when Luu Thi Binh, Vo Hien Linh’s wife said: “Electricity is not only beneficial to the fishermen, but it also relieves the cultivation of onions and garlic undertaken by women.” She also said that her family had bought an automatic pumping system for onion and garlic farming.


Electricity facilitates the irrigation of over 300ha of onion and garlic cultivation land and the post-harvest drying, thus promoting the development of this farming which has long been known throughout the country.

Since getting access to electricity, Ly Son Island has more entertainment activities at night. Photo: Ngoc Ha/VNA



The next day, while I was preparing to leave the island after completing my work, Nguyen Van Thoi, owner of the guest house in Tay Village, An Vinh Commune cheerfully said to me: “On the occasion of power supply to the island, we give a 1/3 discount of room rate for you, our regular customer.” He also said that his guest house will be upgraded to become a hotel with all conveniences like air conditioners, water heaters and free wifi.


His talk reminded me of a conversation with Nguyen Thi Huong, Vice Chairwoman of the district. Huong said that after the island had electricity many travel companies contacted her to express their desire to invest in Ly Son District. In the future, the island will have more hotels and resorts to provide more professional services for visitors. It is expected that by the end of 2014, the construction of two 3-star hotels on the island will be completed to serve tourists.


I returned to Hanoi when the city was busily preparing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its liberation day. The city was brilliant in the lights and flowers, which reminded me of the jubilant atmosphere in Ly Son Island District where a new life full of energy has awakened, promising  a bright future of the native land of the heroic Hoang Sa Flotilla sailors.


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