BackSociety » [Photos] Sludge, Syringes and Toxic Chemicals: A Day in the Life of Saigon's Sewage Workers

Here is a series of images taken by photographer Thanh Nguyen, highlighting the underground and rarely seen work of sewage workers of Saigon.

Unsurprisingly, in Vietnam there lies a common problem under our manhole covers. We may consider the tasks a plumber performs when something goes awry in our house as hard labor, but the work they do deep within the sewers to unclog waterways is even more harrowing, as presented in VnExpress in Vietnamese.

"I think this is the dirtiest job amongst them all. But sometimes jobs choose people, my mum did the same job and I carried on after her because of its stable wage [VND9 million]." Ngo Chi Hung, a veteran sanitation worker of more than 24 years told news source in an interview. Witness below the brave ordeals of some of Saigon's quiet heroes:


Ngo Chi Hung prepares for another dive in the system.

Workers taking turns to unblock a sewer at the junction of Nguyen Thai Hoc and Tran Hung Dao streets in District 1.

Prior to descending, a meter for measuring harmful gases is dangled from above. "If the concentration of harmful gases exceeds the permitted levels, it will go off and tell us to head up, I have to open the sewage and wait until they are gone," Hung told the news source.

Hung climbs down the ladder of the manhole he and his team were working on, equipped with various essentials such as a headlight owing to the pitch-black surroundings underneath.

Hung and colleagues wade inside the vast network of sewage; the water level is estimated to be some 1.2 meters deep.

The team often uses readily available baskets and buckets to collect junk. This job must be performed at least once a month.

"The scariest is when you find an uncovered needle. It sends chills to my head but we have to do it. There were occasions when we picked up whole bags of needles that people threw down the sewer," Thuong shared.

A collection of items found by Thuong within a short span of two minutes.

"On average we get around 5-6 trucks from each manhole, with each truck having a capacity of nearly 3 tons. Thus, I just hope that the people take care not to throw trash down the sewers, that will help ease the strain of our job," Thuong lamented.

Thuong gives a signal to his overground colleagues to send up a full bucket.

The team brings at least two changes of clothes per day and bathing twice a day is the norm due to the nature of their career. 

[Photos by Thanh Nguyen via VnExpress]

Related Articles:

Saigon Student Group Finds New Use for Organic Waste

[Photos] Saigon Is Going Green With These Smart Trashcans

Solving Vietnam's Trash Problem One Moving Truck at a Time

Partner Content