Significance of the Destruction of Dikes in North Vietnam

North Vietnam is an agrarian country. The main product of agriculture is paddy field rice which is grown on the alluvial flats of the Red River, Chu River, Ma River and Ca River. Of this, the Red River Delta - Tonkin Delta - comprises a major part.
     The Tonkin Delta is an immense plain, measuring about 150 kilometres from Viet Tri, at the top of the Delta, to the mouth of the Red River and covering over 1,100,000 hectares. It is thirteen metres above sea level at the highest and 0.5 metres at the lowest with almost no slope. It is divided into many dike-encircled fields by tributaries and sub-tributary waters of the Red River. These dike-encircled paddy fields are surrounded by natural dikes made by the overflowing of the rivers and by man-made dikes constructed over many years by the peasants. Generally, the relative humidity is low in these dike-encircled paddy fields. The height of the Red River dikes in the vicinity of Hanoi is thirteen metres while that of lower land in Hanoi city is only four metres.
     The height of ground near the seashore of the Delta is only 0.5 metres, as it is reclaimed land with dikes constructed on a tideland. The high tide level rises two metres in the Tonkin Gulf.
     The government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam attached much importance to river dikes and seashore dikes and made great efforts to have them constructed, thereby extending the total length of such dikes to 4,000 kilometres in ten years.
     The low ground of the Delta, including the seashore area, cannot be drained naturally and in the rainy season all the land is flooded, so that growing rice in such a season is impossible unless the land is drained mechanically. In contrast, the high ground of the Delta suffers from a water shortage in the dry season, and a rice crop without irrigation facilities is impossible in such a season.
     During the days of French Indochina, irrigation facilities had {169} already been constructed over a considerable area. Since the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the facilities have been greatly and rapidly increased, and ninety per cent of cultivated land is now irrigated. The construction of drainage facilities was undertaken for the first time on a full scale by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and was marked by great progress in ten years. As a result of the strengthening of dikes and the completion of water facilities, twice-a-year cropping has been made possible over a considerable part of paddy fields in the Tonkin Delta, remarkably expanding the production of rice. This description of the Tonkin Delta can also be applied to the alluvial plain of the Ma River and the Chu River. Destruction of these dikes and water facilities by US shelling and bombing carries the following significance.

The case of river dikes

No explanation is necessary to imagine what the results would be should dikes be destroyed in the flood-water season when the river level is higher than the cultivated land and the urban area. In relation to food production, not only farm products would be damaged but the cultivated land itself would be put out of use by the accumulation of earth and sand and by water erosion. In regard to living, houses would either be carried away or destroyed. Damage suffered by the people in both aspects of production and living would be very serious.

The case of the destruction of seashore dikes

If tide-water control dikes along the seashore are destroyed, sea water would flood the land and the cultivated land would be put out of production by sea water, and the crops would die. Even if the dikes are repaired again, and sea water removed, the soil would be salted up and the following season's crops badly affected. If the destruction of dikes should happen at the time of high water, the risk to homes and other buildings and facilities would be great, as they would be destroyed by the force of the inrush of sea water. {170}

The case of the destruction of irrigation facilities

Destruction of irrigation facilities - dams, water control gates, incidental construction of flumes, etc. - would either damage or make impossible the rice crop in the October dry season. Planting of young rice-plants in the transplanting season is impossible without water, and rice crops would suffer from drought if there is not sufficient water after transplantation. Where dams are high, their destruction would result in heavy damage to men and stock, buildings, and cultivated land.

The case of the destruction of drainage facilities

Destruction of drainage facilities - drain sites, overflow, etc. - would make rice cropping impossible in the rainy season in May in the rice areas. As is seen above, dikes and water facilities in North Vietnam have a very important meaning in production activity and living of all the people of North Vietnam, because North Vietnam is an agricultural country and rice crops are cultivated mainly in the Delta area. The destruction of these facilities by shelling and bombing therefore constitutes an impermissible war crime against the Vietnamese people.

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