Former foes join forces on landmine survey (Vietnam)
A project assessing the impact of landmines left by the American War in three central provinces has completed its first phase, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and Vietnam's Defence Ministry announced last Friday. Landmines in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Quang Tri caused an average of 403 deaths and injuries per year from 1975 to 1999, an average which has fallen to 106 per year over the past five years, the survey said. More than 1,300sq.km of land are still considered contaminated, while another 3,050sq.km are suspected to harbour unexploded ordnance or landmines.
"Destruction does not stop when conflict ends, and this is especially telling of circumstances in Vietnam today. This survey represents an extraordinary milestone in US-Vietnam relations," said VVAF President and Vietnam veteran William Belding.
"As both nations still face the legacy of this war, we hope that our continued partnership will further reconciliation efforts and result in effective rehabilitation programmes for victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance."
Funded by the US Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the US$1.2mil pilot study was a joint project of the Defence Ministry's Technology Centre for Bomb and Mine Disposal and VVAF's Information Management and Mine Action Programmes (iMMAP).
The pilot project assessed the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Quang Tri, believed to be the most heavily affected, said iMMAP Director Bill Barron at Friday's meeting in Hanoi.
Landmines in the three provinces caused an average of 403 deaths and injuries per year from 1975 to 1999, an average which has fallen to 106 per year over the past five years, the survey said.
The reductions have not been uniform, however. They were most substantial in communes that started from a very high hazard baseline, and in poorer communes. This was a possible indication that the often-deplored nexus between poverty, high risk behavior (such as farming in areas with unexploded ordnance, or collecting scrap metal for re-sale) and accident rates may have grown weaker over time, the survey reported.
Considerable hazards persist. Statistically, the risk for a commune to see at least once accident in a five-year period related to ordnance increases from 15% in the coastal areas of Ha Tinh Province to fully 71% in the mountains of Quang Tri.
The survey outlined the contamination problem in the three concerned provinces using rapid appraisal techniques and mine action software to store and process data.
The focus of the survey was on collecting community knowledge regarding the social and economic impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as the general location of known or suspected areas of contamination.
The pilot survey conduced in 344 out of 549 communes represented all 27 districts of the three provinces. It reviewed historical records of bombing and combat activities from both US Department of Defence and those of Vietnam's Defence Ministry.
The Defence Ministry fielded teams to the provinces to interview more than 5,000 people in the survey sample in order to locate and map dangerous areas for the study and assess impact on communities.
Technical surveys were conducted oh 421ha of the total area identified as dangerous by communes, resulting in the removal and destruction of sub-surface contamination in these areas.
More than 1,300sq.km of land are still considered contaminated, while another 3,050sq.km are suspected to harbour unexploded ordnance or landmines.
The pilot survey was approved by the Vietnamese Government in February 2004 and commenced in March 2004, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the normalisation of relations between the US and Vietnam and of VVAF activities in the country.
The completion of the pilot survey has given the Vietnamese Government useful information for planning future mine action such as clearance, education and rehabilitation activities and paves the way for the Defence Ministry and the VVAF to expand their assessment into a fuller nationwide study of existing landmines and unexploded ordnance.
US veterans' foundation helps improve relations
"VVAF is on the vanguard of normalising relations between the US and Vietnam. You helped make it possible for me to come here," Prime Minister Phan Van Khai told VVAF during his visit to the US last June.
He also praised the success of VVAF programmes in Vietnam, urged the organisation to continue its work assisting persons with disabilities, and expressed his support for expanding the pilot landmines survey to a broader, national scope.
Von: 17 October 2005, http://vietnamnet.vn