Geography in Vietnam
The geography of Vietnam is also described as a “bamboo pole with two rice bowls”: In the north and south there are two fertile rice-producing river deltas, in between a narrow, rather barren area characterized by forest and mountains. All in all, three quarters of Vietnam is covered by mountains and plateaus.
Five landscapes are distinguished from north to south:
- Yunnan Highlands: Mountainous landscape in the north, where Vietnam borders on China and its highest mountain Phan-xi-păng (3144 m) is. This region is the settlement area of many ethnic minorities, with the city of Sa Pa at the foot of the Phan-xi-păng attracting most of the tourists.
- Red River Delta: This fertile area around the capital Hanoi (Hà Nội) extends to the Gulf of Tonkin (Bắc Bộ). Tourist attractions here are the limestone cliffs around Ninh Bình south of Hanoi, and Halong Bay east of the capital.
- Annamite highlands: The mountainous, sparsely populated hinterland of central and southern Vietnam is primarily a settlement area for ethnic minorities.
- Annamite coastal strip: the narrow, relatively densely populated coastal area between the mountains and the South China Sea in central and southern Vietnam. The biggest cities of Annam are Huế and Da Nang.
- Mekong Delta: fertile, densely populated alluvial plain, on the northeastern edge of which is the megacity of Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, until 1976 Saigon).
Flora and fauna in Vietnam
Vietnam has an incredible variety of animals that are threatened by ongoing forest destruction and poaching. According to recent estimates, only a few tigers and elephants still live there. Other mammals include primates: crested gibbons, slow loris, langurs, macaques, predators, including sun bears, marble cats, as well as a number of crawling cat species, cloven-hoofed animals and numerous species of bats and rodents. The bird world is also rich in species, including pheasants, hornbills, owls, birds of prey, herons and numerous songbirds. Crocodiles, snakes, lizards and frogs are also native to this country, as well as countless species of insects and invertebrates.
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Despite government funding and efforts by international environmental protection organizations, the extinction of endemic plant and animal species in Vietnam continues to decline. The Vietnamese mountain landscape consists of rainforest and is largely undeveloped. Unfortunately, there is a lot of clearing in Vietnam, especially illegally, and thus this contributes to extreme forest loss.
National parks and nature conservation in Vietnam
Millions of hectares of tropical forests that previously suffered from herbicides have been destroyed by slash and burn since the 1960s. The north, which is sometimes difficult to access, is particularly affected by this. The government is trying to put a stop to it, but the pressure of the rapidly growing population and the poverty in the mountain provinces are causing the population to burn down forests in order to gain arable land. Tropical woods such as teak are still illegally extracted in Vietnam, as in the whole of Southeast Asia, in spite of the now strict legal regulations, in order to manufacture furniture for the European, US and Japanese markets.
In addition, the use of environmental toxins by the USA during the Vietnam War caused lasting damage to Vietnamese nature.
There are programs with, in some cases, large amounts of foreign aid, which are intended to raise environmental awareness among the Vietnamese. Government and environmental organizations have high hopes for the development of ecotourism. They have already established 30 national parks – the oldest of them as early as 1962 – and some of the country’s landscapes are under special protection by UNESCO.
The following national parks and marine protected areas have so far been designated in Vietnam:
National Park Ba Bể, National Park Ba Vi, National Park Bạch Mã, National Park Bai Tu Long, National Park Ben En, National Park Bidoup-Nui Ba, National Park Bu Gia Map, National Park Cát Bà, National Park Cat Tien, National Park Chu Mom Ray, National Park Chu Yang Sin, Côn Đảo National Park, Cúc Phương National Park, Hoàng Liên National Park, Kon Ka Kinh National Park, Lo Go-Xa Mat National Park, Mũi Cà Mau National Park, Nui Chua National Park, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Phu Quoc National Park, Phuoc Binh National Park, Pu National Park Mat, Tam Dao National Park, Tràm Chim National Park, U Minh Ha National Park, U Minh Thượng National Park, Vũ Quang National Park, Xuan Son National Park, Xuan Thuy National Park, Yok Đôn National Park.