Many plant and animal species thrive in Vietnam’s warm, rainy climate. Mountain forests are typically dense, consisting of a wide variety of evergreens and rain forest vegetation. Upland farmers periodically clear lands for cultivation, which causes some deforestation, although this is not nearly as serious a problem as in other areas of Southeast Asia. During the Vietnam War (1959-1975) heavy bombing cleared some areas of foliage, but plant life in these areas has gradually begun to recover. In the country’s warmest zones, farmers have widely planted the hillsides and plateau regions with cash crops such as coffee, tea, and rubber.
Most lowland areas and some upland valleys are planted with wet rice, although other useful crops include bananas, coconuts, papaya, and bamboo.
Dense mangrove swamps cover the lowland areas along the southern coast of the Mekong Delta and on the Ca Mau peninsula. Vietnam’s forests are inhabited by many large mammals, including elephants, deer, bears, tigers, and leopards. Smaller animals, such as monkeys, hares, squirrels, and otters, are also found in considerable numbers throughout the country. In recent years, scientists have identified several previously unknown species of animal life in the Truong Son, including the endangered sao la, a cattlelike animal. Many species of birds and reptiles, including crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, also thrive in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s most valuable natural resource is its land, particularly the fertile, alluvial soils in the Red and Mekong deltas. Some 29 percent of the land is currently being cultivated.
Vietnam has some valuable mineral resources, including gold, iron, tin, zinc, phosphate, chromite, apatite, and anthracite coal. Most deposits are located in the northern part of the country. Few attempts were made to extract these minerals until the French takeover of Vietnam at the end of the 19th century. The French opened coal mines, principally along the coast directly east of Haiphong. They also established a phosphate factory on the Paracel Islands, located in the South China Sea.
Since reunification, the Communist government has sought to increase exploitation of Vietnam’s natural mineral resources but has had only modest success so far. Extraction of oil deposits in the South China Sea began in the mid-1980s. In the mid-1990s oil production was sufficient to meet domestic needs, while also providing an important source of export earnings. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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