THE VIETNAM WAR involved an unprecedented assault on the environment. Vast quantities of bombs, cluster bomb units (CBUs or bomblets), napalm, landmines, toxic chemicals, etc. have had lasting effects on soils, water systems, biological diversity, and perhaps even climate. Life forms at many levels of the evolutionary scale have been significantly affected, from primitive plants and animals to human beings.
The extent and intensity of the assault were unprecedented. On an area less than eight percent that of the United States, the amount of high explosives employed was almost double the amount expended by the USA during World War II. Left in the earth were many millions of large bomb craters, unexploded landmines, bomblets, and other ordnance which continue to take a heavy toll of life and limb.
Over 72 million liters of herbicides destroyed roughly ten percent of southern Vietnams valuable forests, including nearly one-third of the coastal mangroves which play vital roles in coastal ecology and in sustaining fish stocks. Toxic chemicals contained in the herbicides, arsenic and dioxin in particular, are expected to continue posing a significant health threat long into the future.
Altogether, the damage to the environment was so intense and widespread that it gave rise to the term ecocide. Nearly three decades later, many of the affected ecosystems have still not recovered. The long-term consequences include loss of habitat and biological diversity, serious and persistent problems of public health, enormous economic losses, and severe constraints on human development. . . . .
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