VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Environment

The Land - Wildlife - National Parks - Environmental Issues

War On The Environment

War on the Environment

Much has been written about the human and economic devastation wrought by the USA during the American War, but there was also ecocide - the war saw the most intensive attempt to destroy a country's natural environment the world has ever seen. American forces sprayed 72 million litres of herbicides (named Agents Orange, White and Blue after the colour of their canisters) over 16% of South Vietnam to destroy the Viet Cong's natural cover. Another environmentally disastrous method of defoliation employed during the war involved the use of huge bulldozers called 'Rome ploughs' to rip up the jungle floor, Large tracts of forest, agricultural land, villages and even cemeteries were bulldozed, removing the vegetation and topsoil Flammable melaleuca forests were ignited with napalm. In mountain areas, landslides were deliberately created by bombing and spraying acid on limestone hillsides. Elephants, useful for transport, were attacked from the air with bombs and napalm. By the war's end, extensive areas had been taken over by tough weeds (knownlocally as 'American grass'). The government estimates that 20,000 sq km of forest and farmland were lost as a direct result of the American War. Scientists have yet to conclusively prove a link between the residues of chemicals used by the USA and spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, birth defects and other human health problems. However, the circumstantial evidence is certainly compelling. In 2002, on the heels of a landmark Agent Orange conference in Hanoi, the USA and Vietnam initiated a joint inves-tigation into the health effects of (his damaging herbicide- Delegates from Vietnam's Environment Protection Agency and the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to signed a directive for scientists so explore possible links between Agent Orange and various physical illnesses, such as cancers in adults and leukaemia in children.
DOING YOUR BIT
Vietnam has a low level of environmental awareness and responsibility, and many people remain unaware of the implications of littering. Try and raise awareness of these issues by example, and dispose of your litter as responsibly as possible. Vietnam's faunal populations are under considerable threat from domestic consumption and the illegal international trade in animal products. Though it may be 'exotic' to try wild meat such as muntjac, bats, deer, sea horses, shark fins and so on - or to buy products made from endangered plants and animals - doing so will indicate your support or acceptance of such practices and add to the demand for them. When visiting coral reefs and snorkelling or diving, or simply boating, be careful not to touch live coral or anchor boats on it, as these hinder the coral's growth. If it's possible to anchor in a sandy area, try to convince the operator to do so and indicate your willingness to swim to the coral. Don't buy coral souvenirs. When visiting limestone caves, be aware that touching the formations hinders growth and turns the limestone black. Don't break off the stalactites or stalagmites as they take lifetimes to regrow. Don't carve graffiti onto limestone formations, cave walls or other rock. Do not remove or buy 'souvenirs' that have been taken from historical sites and natural areas.