Friday, August 16, 2013

Vietnamese forest devastated by Agent Orange restored to health

Life After Death
HO CHI MINH CITY--The government of Vietnam is claiming victory in its battle to save a mangrove forest that was destroyed during the Vietnam War (1960-75) through the U.S. military’s use of the defoliant Agent Orange.
The wetlands located to the southeast of Ho Chi Minh City in Can Gio district are listed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The "forest of the sea" as it is called, covers an area of 37,000 hectares, or about 370 times the area Tokyo Disney Resort occupies.
No wildlife remained by the time the two-decade conflict ended.
The Vietnamese government launched a large-scale reforestation effort after the war to restore the area to its natural state. Red mangrove (rhizophora apiculata) saplings were brought into the area by boats.
“With no maps or compasses, we lived on a boat every day,” recalled Vien Ngoc Nam, a professor of forestry at Nong Lam University.
Thirty-five years after the start of the rehabilitation program, the forest is now home to at least 16 mammal and 135 bird species.
Long-tailed monkeys are some of those who have returned to the forest.
Local salt farmers are also harvesting the salt fields once again--a tradition in the area.
In order to further protect the forest, the government has commissioned 140 households in the area to report on illegal logging.
There are problems that remain to be solved, however; the recovered forest lacks biodiversity given that only trees that are fast growing and more likely to survive were planted.
Japanese nongovernmental organizations took part in the effort to restore the area’s wetland forests--a very difficult endeavor. The conservation efforts continue.

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