More than 100,000 landmines and items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been removed from two provinces in Vietnam by MAG since the organisation started humanitarian mine action in the country in 1999.
|MAG has removed almost 120,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance since 1999|
In eight years, MAG – the largest civilian clearance agency conducting clearance operations in the country – has removed almost 120,000 landmines and UXO, cleared 643 hectares of land for development projects and visited nearly 150,000 houses during operations in provinces straddling the former demilitarised zone (DMZ).
At the end of hostilities with the US, the Vietnamese military estimated that there were between 350,000 to 700,000 tonnes of UXO still scattered across the country. The military’s estimate was based on the failure rates of US ordnance dropped during the conflict between the north and south of Vietnam. There is also UXO left behind from Vietnam’s fight for independence from France in the 1950s and a later conflict with China.
In Quang Tri alone, the provincial military estimated that there is still almost 400,000 hectares of UXO-contaminated land, accounting for 80% of the province’s entire land area.
MAG Vietnam’s Country Programme Manager, Jimmy Roodt, said the MAG’s mine action teams (MATs) had initially focused on the two provinces either side of the DMZ because they were the hardest hit during hostilities.
|MAG technicians using a large loop detector in the investigation of some reported buried items|
“This area saw much of the heaviest fighting during the Vietnam/American War and was occupied by all sides – to this day the area is still littered with vast quantities of landmines and air, land and naval delivered munitions of all descriptions,” he said. “These remnants of conflict continue to cause death and injury on a weekly basis and hamper people’s ability to safely use much needed land throughout the province.
“Since 1999 MAG has been building futures for Vietnamese people still affected by the remnants of conflict by removing the physical threat of injury or death posed by UXO. As Vietnam’s economy marches forward we are making sure that the communities in our areas of operation are not hampered from keeping up.”
However, despite MAG’s and the military’s efforts, accidents continue to occur all over the country. Early last month seven people were killed after an artillery shell exploded in southern Binh Phuoc Province. According to local press the explosion occurred when a 42-year-old scrap collector was sawing the shell for explosive. Three people died instantly, and four others on the way to hospital.
“This type of accident highlights the ongoing danger posed to the community by the remnants of conflict,” said Mr Roodt. “It also highlights the need for organisations to move into other provinces in Vietnam and help marginalised communities which are yet to benefit from any type of humanitarian mine action,” he added.