UXO clearance teams struggling to meet targets

Published on August 1, 2013

The government and private UXO clearance teams in Laos are facing challenges

The government and private unexploded ordnance or UXO clearance groups in Laos are facing challenges to clear 20,000 hectares of land per year. According to Director of the National Regulatory Authority, In order to achieve the target, the NRA will identify 300 specific areas in 47 of the poorest districts in the country for priority clearing.

Speaking at the press conference in Vientiane on Wednesday the 31st of June as Laos prepares to mark the third anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions which falls on August 1st Director of the National Regulatory Authority or NRA, Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun, confirmed that there will be no change to the government’s target this year. The government stated its intention to clear 20,000 hectares of land per year in 2010 and wants this to run until 2020. However, UXO teams are working hard to achieve the target but the funds are not sufficient to support operations. He said, In order to achieve the target, the NRA will identify 300 specific areas in 47 of the poorest districts in the country for priority clearing.

Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun is appealing to donors to hand-out more funds of at least US$50 million per year to remove UXO buried in the ground and help the victims of UXO accidents. He made the call to ensure that the government can collaborate effectively with the United Nations Development Programme and other international development partners, and meet its country-specific Millennium Development Goal known as MDG 9 by 2020. This work plan will be brought before a workshop of UXO technical experts from across Laos in Vientiane this August. The new method involves immediate destruction of UXO found in the target areas and he believes that this will release land quicker to farmers.

According to him, in 2010, only 5,000 hectares of land were cleared because Laos received financial support of just US$19 million. In 2011 and 2012, about 6,000 hectares of land were cleared as communication with donors improved and they increased support to US$30 million.

Director of the National Regulatory Authority or NRA, Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun also indentified the reason for the delay in UXO removal as teams taking too much time figuring out where contamination areas are, then drawing detailed maps, and then deciding to remove it, when often all they find is war debris. He said sometimes they work on one or two hectares for over a month. If the plan works, he expects to achieve a clearance rate of at least 15,000-17,000 hectares per year by 2015.

Laos was bombarded by enemy aircraft during the Indochina war from 1964 to 1973. Over 2 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on the country by warplanes, including about 288 million cluster munitions. Some 75 million unexploded bombs were left after the war finally ended.

So far, 1.5 million items of UXO have been destroyed in Laos on over 39,820 hectares since 1996.

Source: LNTV Lao News in English