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U Minh forest



The town of Ca Mau borders the U Minh Forest, a huge mangrove forest covering 1000 sq km of Ca Mau and Kien Giang provinces. Local people use certain species of mangrove as a source of timber, charcoal, thatch and tannin. When the mangroves flower, bees feed on the blossoms, providing both honey and wax. The area is an important habitat for waterfowl.
The U-Minh Forest, which is the largest mangrove forest in the world outside of the Amazon basin, was a favourite hideout for the VC during the American War. US patrol boats were frequently ambushed here and the VC regularly planted mines in the canals. The Americans responded with chemical defoliation, which made their enemy more visible while doing enormous damage to the for ests. Replanting efforts at first failed because the soil was so toxic, but gradually the heavy rainfall has washed the dioxin out to sea and the forest is returning. Many eucalyptus trees have also been planted here because they have proved to be relatively resistant to dioxin.
Unfortunately the mangrove forests are being further damaged by clearing for shrimp-farming ponds, charcoal production and woodchipping. The government has tned to limit these activities, but the conflict between nature and humans continues. The conflict will probably gel worse before it gets better, because Vietnam's population is still growing rapidly.
The area is known for its birdlife, but these creatures have also taken a beating. Nevertheless, ornithologists will derive much joy from taking boat trips around Ca Mau - though the flocks of birds aren't nearly as ubiquitous as the swarms of mosquitoes.









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