Vietnam’s top Sapper commander, Major General Pham Quang Xuan, has announced that a meeting with donors who help Vietnam to deal with unexploded ordnances left behind the war is expected to take place in mid March.

The conference aims to raise public and international awareness of the National Action Programme on Settling Consequences of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) for the 2010-25, Major General Xuan told an international press conference in Hanoi on March 4.

Without international aid, Vietnam will require 300 years to clear all bombs and mines left during the American War in Vietnam, he said.

The meeting will provide a detailed overview of the country’s pollution by bombs and mines, he added.

The programme currently prioritises mine clearing in heavily affected areas, particularly borders and six central provinces. Infrastructure building in cleared zones is another major task, according to the officer.

According to preliminary statistics, since 1975, UXOs have claimed more than 40,000 lives and left about 60,000 injured, mostly rural people and children. The volume of mines and UXOs left by the war is now estimated at 800,000 tonnes, contaminating over 20 percent of the country’s land. Vietnam needs about 10 billion USD to tackle with pollution issue.

The situation is particularly dire in the provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien- Hue and Quang Ngai. In these localities 10,529 people have been killed and 12,231 injured.

This year, the Vietnam Mine Action Centre will make its debut with the aim of coordinating funding sources and establish a website regarding the National Mine Action Program to deal with the Unexploded Ordnances known as Program 504.

In April 2010, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved the programme with the aim of mobilising domestic and international resources to clear ordnance. This in turn will help better ensure safety for the people living in localities plagued by UXOs and indirectly aid the country’s socio-economic development.-VNA