Collateral damage and forests

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Temps de lecture : 2 minutes  

foret conflit guerre

Because forests can hide enemies, armies sometimes see the destruction of forests as an important strategy. Between 1962 and 1971, the US military sprayed approximately 80 million litres of defoliants, including the notorious Agent Orange, onto the Vietnamese countryside. One-fifth of the forests in the south of the country were destroyed, and 36% of the 291,000 hectares of mangrove forest, especially in the Mekong Delta, were wiped out.

Chemical warfare has been called ecocide, because its aim is to destroy an ecosystem. It also has long-term consequences for humans; today, there are still people suffering from exposure to Agent Orange (which causes cancer and numerous deformations) among American veterans and, especially, the Vietnamese.

The exploitation of the forest’s resources by belligerents is also a key issue: illegal exploitation of wood from Liberia enabled Charles Taylor to finance his civil war. And poaching carried out by large numbers of soldiers can threaten biodiversity, as in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where soldiers and militiamen from all sides forage for food in the forest.

Forests are sometimes destroyed by military operations, as during World War I in Europe, when the area around Verdun, France, was entirely devastated. Today, a forêt de guerre (war forest) has been restored around the battle site, where over 300,000 soldiers were killed. In this protected forest, some older trees still bear the mark of machine-gun fire, and the soil still hides the traces of toxic elements, explosives and, in some places, the bodies of victims.

Paradoxically, there is one context in which a war can be beneficial to forests. In certain militarised zones such as minefields, the no-man’s-land between North and South Korea, and the area around the former Iron Curtain in Europe, people are absent. And here, nature proliferates.

Extrait du livre « Des forêts et des hommes » rédigé par la rédaction de GoodPlanet à l’occasion de l’année internationale des forêts et disponible aux éditions de la Martinière.

Pour en savoir plus rendez-vous sur le site Des Forêts et des Hommes

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