As has been made evident by a plethora of research on the environmental histories of territories within the Indian Ocean World (IOW), the exploitation and commodification of natural and human environments that was introduced by European imperialists in the colonial era has contributed significantly to the destabilization of local ecologies. By presenting a comparative analysis of two natural monsoon-based wetlands in the IOW – the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam, and the Zambezi Delta of Northern and Central Mozambique –  this article contends that imperial strategies of wetland development and models of hydraulics control have contributed significantly to modern and post-modern wetland degradation and unsustainability. It will demonstrate how the replacement of colonial management with that of centralized governmental control within both Vietnam and Mozambique continues to aggravate this environmental crisis due to their respective tendencies to prioritize economic profit over environmental necessities. The destabilization of these natural wetland environments over the past two centuries has contributed to increases in various undesirable consequences: food insecurity, disease, ecological species endangerment, irregularities in rainfall, intense fluctuations of seasonal monsoons and El Niño South Oscillation (ENSO), as well as dangerous vacillations between periods of drought and flooding. As climate change continues to disrupt our natural world, and as local governments continue to favour short-term economic initiatives that disregard environmental repercussions, IOW wetlands and the valuable ecosystems within them risk becoming obsolete.

Published: 2020-06-18