At Vietnam’s southern tip, mangroves defend the land from the encroaching sea

Seen from above, Cape Ca Mau National Park, at Vietnam’s southernmost point, juts into the Gulf of Thailand like a verdant green toe. This dark green shade is created by an expansive, ecologically vital mangrove forest.

But the province the park sits in, also called Ca Mau, is losing forest and land to the sea. Local media report that since 2007, erosion has eliminated roughly 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of protective coastal forest there, largely consisting of acacia trees.

In August 2020, the provincial government declared a state of emergency over concerns that an embankment on the west coast that had been stripped of forest would collapse from strong waves, rising seas and tidal movement.

This followed an incident in July in which 12 homes collapsed into a river in Ca Mau after the land beneath them eroded away.

Bordered by the sea on two sides and exposed to typhoons and rising sea levels, Ca Mau is among the most vulnerable regions of a country expected to face some of the worst future impacts from climate change. In response, people there are working to restore and preserve mangroves like almost nowhere else in Vietnam in an attempt to protect the remaining coastal land from encroaching seas.

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Michael Tatarski