Vietnam calls for int’l help in clearing wartime UXOs

By Thanh Nien Staff, Thanh Nien News

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An officer detects UXO in Vietnam
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked international sponsors to join Vietnam’s efforts to rid the country of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that still kills and injures thousands of people every year.
The PM was speaking at an international conference organized by Committee 504, a national agency tasked with clearing UXO, in Hanoi on Friday.
He also urged the US, out of its “conscience and responsibility,” to make more contributions to the mission and help with the “serious consequences” that Agent Orange has visited on the Vietnamese.
The US military dumped more than 15 million tons of bombs and other kinds of ammunition on Vietnam during the Vietnam War, he quoted official figures as saying.
Since the war ended in 1975, Vietnam has lived in peace for nearly 40 years, “but the war’s consequences are still serious and long-lasting.”
According to preliminary statistics, UXOs have killed more than 42,000 people and injured another 62,000 since the war ended in 1975, putting the annual death rate at over 1,500 and the injured at nearly 2,300.
Many of the victims were children.
As UXO is present in most localities across Vietnam, it has also affected the country’s economic and social development, Dung said.
The Vietnamese government spends US$80-100 million clearing UXO ever year and has received sponsorship from many local and international organizations.
The country has so far made certain achievements, but still faces difficulties in the mission, because the war’s consequences are “too big,” the PM said.
In an interview with Thanh Nien, Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh said it would take tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of years to clean up UXOs-polluted lands in Vietnam.
A 2002 survey of all 63 provinces and cities found 6.6 million hectares of land, or 21.12 percent of the country’s total land area, affected by UXO.
But a recent national survey of 49 provinces and cities showed that 7.1 million hectares of land are contaminated with the presence of UXO.
According to Vinh, Vietnamese agencies together with non-government organizations now handle 30,000-35,000 hectares of contaminated land every year.
It was previously estimated that every year around 20,000 hectares of land was checked and handled, meaning that Vietnam needed some 300 years to finish the clearance.
However, the government is trying to speed up the job so that it can clear 100,000 hectares per year, the deputy minister said.
With international help, the country may be able to “basically” finish the mission in some 50 years, he said.
So far Vietnam has received sponsorship from the governments of Belgium, India, Japan, Norway, the UK, and the US in addition to the help nearly 40 non-government organizations, he said.

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