Our last Sunday Bike Ride took us to spend a day in Can Gio, one of the most overlooked spots around Ho Chi Minh City. it is usually publicized in travel agencies for its Monkey Island, an area where crab eating macaques and tourists have fun together, although you risk to lose your hat if you wear one, those monkeys are fast and sneaky. But the most amazing fact about Can GIo is not the monkeys, but how this are was completely destroyed by chemicals during the war, how a mangrove forrest was turned into a desert of sand and salt and how Vietnamese people were able to reverse the situation and get back the mangrove they had.
This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Can Gio, part of the Ho Chi Minh City municipality, is located about 30 km away from the city center. The trees of this 40,000-hectare forest with over 700 animal species protect Saigon against the rising sea levels. According toLe Duc Tuan, executive secretary of the Biosphere Reserve of Can Gio, biodiversity now is almost the same as before the war, which would have been hard to believe when he was one of the young volunteers who started the replantation in 1978. These teams replanted 4,000 hectares per year from 1978 to 1981.
It is still possible to visit the remaining os the Viet Cong guerrilla camp that the American Army tried to drive out by spraying the forest with 2.4 million litres of Agent Orange and 1.5 million litres of other defoliants such as Agent White and Agent Blue between 1965 and 1970. “After the war, the local government prioritized the recovery of green areas, and specially Can Gio, which was the most important. We chose a kind of mangrove tree from Ca Mau province (located at the southern tip of Vietnam) that was particularly resistant and could grow easily”, says Le Duc Tuan. They used 2,000 tons of seeds per year.
Since 1981, the pace of replantation went down to 2,000 hectares a year and since 1990, other tree species were introduced to improve biodiversity. In 2000, the replantation was officially completed, the same year that UNESCO recognized Can Gio as a Biosphere Reserve. Now, peop