Đồng Nai: The Most Contaminated Province
Author: Grace Canning
Located in Southeast Vietnam, Đồng Nai Province ranks first for the most heavily Agent Orange-contaminated location in the world.4 1,785,897 gallons of herbicide were sprayed upon this province during the Vietnam War.3 Sprawling with lakes and Vietnam’s largest river, locals often rely on the bounties of such for nourishment. Everything in the water sources including fish and “foodstuff” (as referred to by a sign posted at a contaminated lake at Biên Hòa Airport warning locals about the dangers of consuming anything around) is still being consumed while precautions are ignored.1 Also, the Đồng Nai river runs along a famous hunting region called Gum Tien.7 “TCDD [Agent Orange] presence contaminates water and soil – plants uptake the contaminated water, animals eat the contaminated plants, and humans are subsequently and continually exposed if it is present in the environment.10” Not only are the resources in the water subject to contamination, but so are the animals around it – all of which are being consumed by the locals even today.
Biên Hòa was the capital of what used to be the Republic of South Vietnam.5 It sits along a highway built by the United States Aid Program after the Vietnam war.7 Ten percent of Biên Hòa’s inhabitants are Roman Catholic; a large portion of the population, even considering that Catholicism tends to present itself in the south of the country more so than the north because of its inherent tension with communism.6
The United States allied with the South against the communist nation of North Vietnam. The French-influenced Catholics “enjoyed an advantage over Non-Catholics in commerce, the professions, education, and the government. This caused growing Buddhist discontent that contributed to the eventual collapse of the Diem regime [an autocratic south Vietnamese regime started by Ngo Dinh Diem and allied by United States forces]9 and the ultimate rise to power of the military.6”
The seemingly endless religious tension was obviously related to the American/Vietnam war at large. When religions self-associate with economic systems for mutual benefits, like Catholicism and capitalism, it warps the system in the eyes of religious followers. People tend to uphold an extremely personal and unyielding attachment to their religion because it alleviates the uncertainty of the human condition. This attachment can harness a lot of power from a population, and in North Vietnam’s case, was powerful enough to provoke the imperialist and capitalist United States into thwarting the spread of communism.
The area of Đồng Nai Province and specifically Biên Hòa has a culture and lifestyle that persists past its plight of contamination from the war. An Phuc wants to humanize the statistics of the most intensely contaminated province and bring light to the people and the culture thereof. In spite of decades of religious disputes and residual damage from the war and contamination, much art and culture specific to this region of Vietnam has transcended the petty, ideological disputes and continues to flourish today.
Biên Hòa is home to the Biên Hòa Fine Arts School. The city has a 300-year-old tradition of crafting “pottery focus[ing] on… different colours, delicate patterns and unique glazes.” The unique glazes include “blue-speckled copper and celadon glaze from natural materials, such as rice straw ash, sand from Da Nang and laterite.” “Vong Khieng, General Secretary of Đồng Nai Fine Arts Pottery Association said: “Biên Hòa pottery is beautiful and unique in both patterns and glazes because it is a product with a blend of three pottery types – the Vietnamese, the Chinese, and the Cham.”” The pride within the district’s pottery stems from its worldwide recognition – popular across all of Asia and Europe.8
The people of this culturally rich province are still at risk for dioxin poisoning and deformations because they are ignoring the fact that their resources are still contaminated. The United States is also ignoring it. If more aid was to be given to these people, they could be educated about what is safe to consume resulting in less deformations and pain throughout the province.
Please donate to An Phuc today to provide DIRECT aid to the contaminated people of Vietnam.
- Caddell, Ann. Customs and Culture of Vietnam. Charles E. Tuttle Co. Inc. 7 Aug, 2012.
- Doherty, Sabrina. “America’s Secret Chemical Weapon: Agent Orange, a Dioxin. An Phuc. April 2018.