At the beginning of this century, gibbons could have travelled from China to Singapore by swinging from tree to tree. The past 50 years, however, have seen the forests of Southeast Asia largely disappear. The reasons for this devastation are still poorly understood, but the results are tragically all too visible. Increased soil erosion, reduced water-storage capacity, changes in microclimates, and loss of nutrients have led to a decline in the productivity of marginal lands and the impoverishment of local communities.
In Viet Nam, the situation is particularly urgent. Continuing soil degradation poses an ominous threat to that country's natural-resource-based economy. Further, the pressure on Viet Nam's remaining forest resources has been redoubled as the Vietnamese government opts for a more open and market-driven economy.
Deforestation in Viet Nam reports on a innovative and timely study by a team of Vietnamese and Canadian researchers. It presents a labourious historical analysis of the smallest changes affecting soil use, forest cover, population, and political and socioeconomic characteristics. The book concludes with suggestions for future research and emphasizes the importance of examining the problems of natural-resource degradation in their proper local and historical contexts.
Rodolphe De Koninck is Professor of Geography at Université Laval in Ste-Foy (Canada). Prof. De Koninck is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and currently President of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies. He was recently awarded the 1998 Prix Jacques-Rousseau for interdisciplinarity by the Association canadienne-française pour l'avancement des sciences (Acfas).