Vietnam Ecological Problems Part II
The defoliant Agent Orange, which was used extensively by the USA during the Vietnam War and which, as a long-term consequence, led to malformations in newborns, continues to pose a special environmental impact. Due to the high financial outlay, the Vietnamese authorities have so far not been able to carry out a nationwide investigation into the consequences of Agent Orange. The joint research projects on the long-term effects of Agent Orange, which Vietnam and the USA had agreed on, were put on hold by Washington in 2004.
It can only be speculated whether this decision by the US government was related to the fact that in early 2004 the Vietnamese first sued US courts against American companies that had manufactured Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The lawsuit was dismissed by a US court in March 2005, causing a lot of displeasure in Vietnam. In 2007, therefore, some Vietnamese plaintiffs in the USA went to the next higher instance. However, the lawsuit was dismissed by the US Supreme Court in February 2009.
The USA is now providing financial support to Vietnam in cleaning up the areas contaminated by Agent Orange. However, this does not mean that the United States accepts responsibility for the long-term consequences of the Agent Orange deployment.
The many mines and grenades that lie underground, especially near the 17th parallel, the former demarcation line, are a legacy of the war. Many NGOs, including those that arose on the initiative of US veterans, are trying to contribute to the fight against this legacy of war.
According to areacodesexplorer, Vietnam is characterized by a very large biodiversity. These include, for example, rare species of apes such as langurs, such as gibbons. In recent years the country has made a name for itself with the discovery of previously unknown animal species. For example, the Saola, which is also known as the “Asian unicorn” and resembles the antelope, was discovered around 20 years ago in Central Vietnam. Special programs have been initiated to protect the Saola. At the same time, however, the trade in rare animals has also increased, so that biodiversity is seriously threatened. This is true of a number of rare animals. In 2010 the last copy of the Javanese rhinoceros killed in Vietnam. The demand for rhinoceros in Vietnam is now being met by illegal imports from South Africa. The number of animals shot in South Africa has increased massively since 2010. The horn is processed into medicine in Vietnam. After the South African and Vietnamese governments signed an agreement to protect rhinos, there was some hope that smuggling would decrease, but it has not been fulfilled. In November 2014, two Vietnamese citizens were arrested in South Africa for attempting to smuggle 41kg of rhinoceros out of the country – according to the authorities, the largest smuggling case in South Africa so far.
The number of elephants living in the wild in Vietnam has also fallen sharply from 1500 to 2000 specimens in 1980 to around 70 to 100 currently. The “need” for ivory is therefore now being met by illegal imports from abroad. So it is no coincidence that French customs in Paris seized the largest amount of smuggled ivory from a Vietnamese couple at the end of 2015.
Another “export good” to Vietnam is the pangolin, which is also one of the endangered species and is available in Vietnamese restaurants for US $ 250 per kilo.
A particular problem is that many animals are used in the manufacture of traditional medicine. In Vietnam, for example, the idea persists that rhino is good for health in the form of traditional medicine. Bears are also kept in cages in Vietnam to “draw off” their bile – also for tourists from Taiwan and South Korea. Projects that are committed to protecting bears, among other things, have to fight massive business interests in Vietnam. With the official backing of the Vietnamese government, however, the international animal welfare organization “Animals Asia” was able to free the last collar bears that were kept in Ha Long Bay in January 2016.
The fundamental problem with species protection is that many of the endangered animal species are also on the “menu” of the newly rich Vietnamese elite and that there is generally little public interest in enforcing the existing laws on species protection. However, various NGOs are campaigning to influence public awareness and to outlaw the wildlife trade.
The certainly justified criticism of the lack of species protection in Vietnam should not go too far: in February 2013 the article by a US journalist who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize heatedly, according to which almost the entire animal world in Vietnam had been “consumed” by the local population and especially the – so the author – have performed all over the country widespread consumption of dog meat to a particularly aggressive foreign policy, not only in Vietnam even the tempers.
Since the new penal code came into force in 2018, some successes have been achieved in the fight against trade in endangered species. In general, however, there is a lack of implementation of the existing laws to protect biodiversity, especially at the provincial level.