War legacy issues: organisations work together on UXO settlement

April 06, 2023 - 08:29
The United Nations' International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action is observed on April 4 each year. This day aims to raise awareness about landmines and progress toward their eradication.
Bonnie Denise Jenkins, the US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs observes unexploded ordnance survey and clearance activities in Triệu Sơn Commune in Quảng Trị during her visit in 2022. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Thuỷ

QUẢNG TRỊ — As of April 2023, as many as 34 NGOs and 23 international organisations have worked together to help Quảng Trị – the province hardest hit by bombs, mines and unexploded explosive ordnance (UXOs) in Việt Nam – overcome the consequences of explosive remnants of the war.

More than 3,400 people have been killed and over 5,100 others injured by bombs, mines and UXOs (BMU) in the central province of Quảng Trị since 1975, according to the Quảng Trị Mine Action Centre. Among the deaths and injuries, 31 per cent were children under 16.

With external support, the province has achieved progress in settling the consequences of post-war unexploded ordnance and toxic chemicals.

Between 1975 and 1995, there were an average of 100 people involved in accidents caused by BMU each year. In 2005-2015, the number decreased to 10 people.

Between 2018 and 2021, no accidents involving BMU were recorded. In early 2022, however, there were two accidents with bombs and mines, killing one and injuring another.

The province has cleared over 779,000 bombs, mines and UXOs of all kinds, and cleaned 26,660 hectares of land contaminated with heavy bombs and mines.

So far, nearly 1,000 technical staff have been trained to meet international standards on bomb and mine clearance, and they are also equipped with modern equipment and facilities.

Clear leftover bombs and mines

According to Nguyễn Triều Thương, Director of the Department of External Affairs of Quảng Trị, Deputy Head of the Standing Agency of the National Steering Committee on the Settlement of Post-war Unexploded Ordnance and Toxic Chemical Consequences, the province has implemented a bomb and mine action strategy as well as made digital maps in combination with the treatment of highly polluted areas.

It also applied advanced technologies in clearance and established a shared database management system for handling the consequences of bombs and mines.

There has been close coordination between the government, mine action organisations and the people, which made it easy to mobilise and utilise resources for related activities, he said.

Quảng Trị was the first province in the country to introduce bomb and mine accident prevention into schools for primary school and secondary school students.

The rate of people, especially students who are aware of the dangers and harmful effects of bombs, mines and UXOs, reached a high level, with 630,000 people accessing education programmes on the risk of bomb and mine accidents.

In 2016-2025, the province aims to mobilise over US$150 million from international organisations for the settlement of post-war unexploded ordnance and toxic chemical consequences.

The province aims to be the first locality in the country to be free from the effects of bombs, mines and UXOs left over from the war by 2025.

This goal does not necessarily translate into the fact that all types of bombs and mines will be cleared but rather they aim towards the completion of surveys and mapping of areas contaminated with bombs and mines for monitoring and management work.

It also set the target to have 100 per cent of its people equipped with knowledge and provided with support services to live and work safely.

According to its plan, the most dangerous types of bombs and mines here will be handled. Areas contaminated with bombs and mines with high demand for land will be zoned for clearing. The remaining areas are controlled and treated in order of priority, in accordance with the needs of land use.

Đinh Ngọc Vũ, Deputy Director of the Quảng Trị Mine Action Centre said, from a province with the highest level of landmine contamination in the country, Quảng Trị has brought the issue under control.

It has been successful in identifying areas with a high level of contamination, areas that need to be prioritised for treatment, areas contaminated with specific types of bombs and mines, types of need for assistance among victims of bombs and mines.

Valuable support

In 1995, Peace Trees Vietnam was the first US non-governmental organisation to be licensed and deploy bomb and mine clearance activities in Quảng Trị.

Following this, many international organisations have been supporting the province in the settlement of post-war unexploded ordnance and toxic chemical consequences.

They include Mines Advisory Group (MAG) which implemented a project for 2021-2025 with a capital of over $29 million, and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) with its environmental restoration and mining survey projects worth $13 million. — VNS