Dioxin cleanup project kicks off in central Vietnam

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched Friday a project to clean up dioxin at the Phu Cat airbase in the central province of Binh Dinh.

Under the project, a landfill site will be used to isolate 5,400 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil at the airbase.

The landfill site is part of a US$5 million project launched by UNDP and GEF in July 2010. The project focuses on supporting Vietnam to remediate dioxin contamination at the three hotspots, including Phu Cat airbase.

It also aims to minimize disruption to ecosystems and health risks for people from the release of dioxin from the contaminated hotspots. The Office of the National Steering Committee 33 (Office 33) in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is responsible for implementing the project.

"This is a clear reminder that poisoning our environment is akin to poisoning ourselves," said Ms Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, at the groundbreaking ceremony.

"Without action, the hotspots will continue to be sources for contamination of the wider environment and will pose a serious health risk to people, especially through food chains."

The government, UNDP and other partners have agreed to apply a two-phased approach to cleaning up dioxin contamination at the hotspots.

The first phase focuses on containment, isolating the toxic soil and sediment in the landfill, thereby reducing the exposure risk and eliminating risks to people and animals. The second phase will permanently destroy the dioxin.

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UNDP will support the completion of the first phase containment at Phu Cat airbase and pave the way for the second phase dioxin destruction by testing appropriate technology at the Bien Hoa airbase in the coming year.

Phu Cat is one of three former military airbases that are still highly contaminated by dioxin due to large quantities of herbicides stored or handled there during the Vietnam War. The other two hotspots are Da Nang and Bien Hoa airbases.

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