6.1. Degradation of ecosystems and erosion of wildlife resources
6.2. The Vietnamese system of special-use forests
Before 1945, and during the colonial times, large tracts of natural forests were cleaned for the cultivation of rubber and coffee trees and some other tropical cash crops. Most forests in the Mekong Delta, along the coasts the springs and water courses and some forests in the Upland were cut down and burnt. In spite of the fact that some 43% of forest cover still remained, the process of forest clearing for profits already started.
Then came a period of population explosion, with a size of population of only 35 million people in 1945 coming up to 72.5 million people in 1994, thus making the practice of forest clearing for food production become widespread over the whole of Vietnam.
Combined with all the above, are the impacts of bombs, ammunitions and 72 million litres of defoliants poured down on the territory of this country ravaging over 2 million hectares of closed forests and making the forest cover of this country come down to only 28 % when the wars at last come to an end.
One can hardly picture the destructive consequences of prolonged wars on environment and forests in Vietnam. There are more frequent (almost annual) flash floods in more than one area, causing big losses in terms of men, animals and other resources. The silting process is going to get intensified in rivers, irrigation works, water reservoirs, in particular at hydroelectric power generation stations where the silting process has caused the life time of these systems to get much shortened. Soil losses, land-and even mud slides become nightmares for people living in the Mountain Area Along the rivers and the coastline, there are other losses form gullies foreshore collapsing, sea storms and sand saltation threatening villages and their communities. The destruction of forest and environment combined with mis-management of wildlife resources have also caused big losses in these resources and other related ones.
The system is better known elsewhere as a system of protected areas. There exist now in Vietnam 10 National Parks, 46 Protected Areas and 31 cultural, historic and scenic sites where protection and management are carried out for the conservation of all existing forest/vegetation types in Vietnam. Some of them are quite big, but most protected areas are small or very small be cause of their fragmentation as a result of former management and use.
Management Boards and qualified staff are now in place for protection and management. A number of research activities/projects (not excluding those dealing with forest inventories and feasibility studies) have been carried out in these protected areas by national/international science workers.
Investment for protected area establishment, management and development have begun to pour in. In 1992, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shaped out a project for the training of officers working in environment and biodiversity conservation in this country. The project has developed effective measures for the improvement of methods used in protected area management, trained a large number of conservationists, and has in practice improved the current management of some national parks and reserves.
The Government of Netherlands has provided technical assistance worth US$ 2.5 m to a project dealing with the conservation of the Nature Reserve of Vu Quang.
The European Community (EU) has supported the Phu Mat Social Forestry and Nature Protection Project worth US$ 20 m now being implemented at the three (3) districts of Anh Son, Tuong Duong and Con Cuong of Nghe An.
Through a High Mountain Area Protection and Development Project, the World Bank is issuing loans to local people living in a number of buffer zones of protected areas to help farmers there develop their agroforest practices and systems and create employment opportunities, thus contributing to better management of some Protected Areas of importance.
Other protected areas, through being frequently visited by interested expatriate experts have not yet received any assistance from outside.