Expats in Hanoi take on massive canal cleanup project

Published:  17 May at 6 PM
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A group of expats living and working in Hanoi have formed a volunteer organisation dedicated to cleaning up the city’s network of canals, drains and public gardens.

Hanoi is a popular destination for Western expats looking to work and live in a more laid-back Southeast Asian environment, but culture shock often includes the deplorable state of waterways, parks and recreational spaces. After living and teaching English in the city for three years, James Kendall decided he had to do something about it.

Kendall’s ideas soon became reality with the founding of not-for-profit organisation ‘Keep Hanoi Clean’. At first, the small group comprised its founder and a few of his friends, but word of mouth and a Facebook page resulted in an amazing total of 1400 members and followers.

The 20 regular members, a number of whom are young Vietnamese, are committed to cleaning up the filthy canals and drains as well as tidying and cleaning public gardens. Last weekend, the group were to be found chest-deep in black, polluted water whilst dredging a local canal by removing the filth and debris from the water. Once done, they planted young trees along its borders.

Kendall reported on Facebook the canal and its surroundings looked great, adding that the support the group is receiving is heartwarming. As with many other Southeast Asian cities, the problem is being caused by waste dumped by residents into the nearest places, usually canals, rivers, wastelands or even public garden spaces. Re-education has been tried with little success, but it’s hoped that any improvement in the city’s environment will encourage local people to change their dumping habits.

Keep Hanoi Clean’s Facebook page is crammed with Hanoi residents’ praises for the group’s efforts, saying the expats’ kindness is a wake-up call for residents to begin protecting and cleaning their own city. Kendall’s ultimate goal is to revive polluted, dead rivers all across the city, admitting that it’s a major plan but determined to make it happen.
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