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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 8. 19th April 1973


The war in Indochina will be best remembered for the failure of the world's greatest military power to defeat the people of a poor peasant country.

In their attempt to subdue the Vietnamese, the Americans launched an all out war against the environment. Technology was misused as in no previous conflict, upsetting man's traditional harmony with nature.

In this article, which is abridged from a feature in the Far Eastern Economic Review of March 5th, Thomas Brindley describes the ecological effects of the Indochina war.

The American bombing has left countless craters in the rice paddies and along canals, often rendering the land unfit for farming. Large areas such as Northern Quang Tri Province have been devastated. Farmers, once secure, have moved to cities, towns and refugee camps.

Nearly all the villages in Eastern Cambodia, eastern Laos and many parts of both North and South Vietnam have been destroyed. Large areas have been de-populated and, in many sections, "free-fire zones" where anybody can be shot on sight have precluded any normal activity by civilians.

While estimates of deaths run into millions, the corresponding environmental impact is a hastened process of urbanisation and the depletion of jungle and rural tracts. Saigon, for example exploded within ten years from a peaceful peasant city of 350,000 to a modern urban area (largely slums) of 3.5 million.

Indiscriminate bombings over large areas of forests, especially by B-52's were excused by the US military and the State Department as the land was considered uninhabited and therefore "expendable". But it had been considered a homeland by many.