Bomb clearance efforts make life safer in war-ravaged Quảng Trị

April 06, 2021 - 12:00
After finding unexploded bombs when he was digging the foundations of his new house last month, Tạ Thành Đạt knew what he had to do.


A 227kg bomb was found and safely handled by a mobile bomb and mine clearance team from PeaceTree in Hướng Hóa District, Quảng Trị Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồ Cầu

QUẢNG TRỊ — After finding unexploded bombs when he was digging the foundations of his new house last month, Tạ Thành Đạt knew what he had to do.

The man in Đông Hà City, the central province of Quảng Trị, called the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team and asked for help.

The team comes from RENEW – a co-operative programme between Quảng Trị and foreign NGOs to restore the environment and address the consequences of war, especially unexploded ordnance (UXO). The main foreign partner in the programme is Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

As soon as they received the call, EOD arrived at Đạt’s house, searched and finally found 22 unexploded bombs and more than 350 small bullets.

The unexploded ordnance and bullets were moved away from the construction site and deactivated safely.

Đạt said the team’s professional and quick response helped him feel safe and confident that his new house would be built on schedule.

Earlier, in January this year, teams from the NPA/RENEW project searched for UXO across 865,000 sq.m in Hoàng Hà Hamlet, Gio Việt Commune, Gio Linh District of the same province. 

The teams found and deactivated 111 cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance.

Lê Viết Mậu, a resident, said almost all of the more than 100 households' land and almost all their farmland was contaminated with UXO, which put people in danger.

“We are so happy to see unexploded ordnance removed,” he said.

The central province of Quảng Trị was most heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Việt Nam following the three decades of bombardment in the resistance war against the US.

Eighty-two per cent of Quảng Trị’s total area is contaminated by UXO from the war with the US. Wartime bombs and landmines have killed more than 3,430 local people and injured 5,100 others.

In the last 26 years, the province has received nearly US$144 million from international organisations to remove the bombs. Thanks to this funding, UXO has been cleared on a total land area of more than 214 million sq.m. Part of the funding was spent on detecting cluster bombs on 449 million sq.m and identifying more than 446 million sq.m of land contaminated by UXO. More than 86 million sq.m of contaminated land was tackled. More than 740,700 UXO were found and deactivated. 

Dozens of thousands of people in affected areas received support to improve their livelihoods and better understand UXO.

Vice-chairman of the province People’s Committee Hoàng Nam said the province and its partners have been making great efforts in bomb clearance.

2018 was the first year the province reported no accidents relating to UXO, he said.

The province has worked since 1995 with international organisations such as the US-based Peace Trees Vietnam, the Mines Advisory Group, Clear Path International, and Norwegian People’s Aid on clearing UXO and supporting UXO victims.

Peace Trees Vietnam was the first non-governmental organisation granted permission to operate in Việt Nam to implement bomb clearance.

Nam said that US non-governmental organisations helped the province clear UXO in about 187 million sq.m as well as to deactivate hundreds of UXO.

They also helped develop and train human resources to use modern technology for bomb clearance.

Nearly 900 local people living in UXO-affected areas received support to get stable jobs and incomes, he said.

The NPA/RENEW project since 2001 has also brought safer living conditions for local people.

The province is working to clear about 3,000ha of land each year to become the first Vietnamese locality safe from UXO accidents by 2025, Nam said.

Early this year, the provincial People’s Committee approved a plan to implement an action programme for settling the consequences of UXO in 2021-25 period.

Besides land clearance, it aims to mobilise US$10-12 million annually from foreign non-governmental organisations to address UXO, complete all cluster bomb detection activities, and publicise areas identified as dangerous due to UXO.

It plans to help 60,000 people access education on UXO and have 1,300-1,500 UXO victims and their families receive healthcare and livelihood support every year.

All local schools are expected to include UXO safety education in their curricula within the next five years.

The province also plans to seek more foreign funding for dealing with UXO, prepare human resources for UXO settlement, increase training for those who manage and steer the work, and boost communications to raise awareness among agencies and the community. 

According to the Ministry of Defence, between 2010 and 2020, the total clearance area is estimated to reach more than 500,000ha, including over 400,000ha conducted by the ministry and the remaining by international organisations.

Việt Nam has spent approximately VNĐ12.6 trillion (US$549 million) on bomb and mine clearance in the past decade.

The total amount includes VNĐ9 trillion ($391 million) from development and investment projects, VNĐ1.42 trillion ($62 million) from the national action plan against post-war legacy, and VNĐ2.2 trillion ($96 million) from international non-refundable aid.

UXO was scattered over Việt Nam, Laos and Cambodia by US bombers, at three times the volume of ordnance dropped in World War II, according to Project Renew. — VNS