Around 250,000 cu.m of soil in Bien Hoa City, the southern province of Dong Nai, are contaminated with dioxin at levels ranging from 1,000 ppt to as high as more than 1 million ppt, it was reported at a workshop in Dong Nai on October 21.

The director of the national project on overcoming consequences of toxic chemicals used by the US army during the war in Vietnam, Le Ke Son said at least 250 million USD and five years will be needed to treat all the contaminated soil.

According to Son, this is the conclusion of a survey conducted by the National Steering Committee for overcoming consequences of Agent Orange/dioxin (or Committee 33 in short) in coordination with relevant ministries and agencies. The survey examined dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Airport, a major military airbase of the US army during the war, and surrounding areas.

UNDP Deputy Country Director Bakhodir Burkhanov said since 2009, the UNDP has assisted the Vietnamese government in dealing with dioxin contamination at hotspots in the country.

Over the past five years, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) have mapped dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Airbase to give a better understanding of its scope, level and the unique features of the contamination. Through this project, interim measuring facilities have been set up to prevent dioxin from being released to outside the airbase.

The UNDP official affirmed that dioxin contamination is the cause of many health problems, and it is important that local residents are aware of the risks that dioxin poses to their health and livelihood.

A representative from the Defence Ministry reported that the ministry has completed the containment of nearly 100,000 cubic meters of dioxin contaminated soil on 4.3 ha of land in the airport at the cost of around 73 billion VND. The containment method was also used in dealing with 7,500 cubic metres of dioxin contaminated soil in Phu Cat Airport in the central province of Binh Dinh.

Son said Committee 33 will continue researching to select an effective and suitable dioxin remediation technology for Bien Hoa Airport.

The workshop in Dong Nai was jointly organised by the Office of Committee 33 and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). It brought together representatives from relevant Government agencies, international organisa tions, national non-government orgnizations and scientists, experts working in this area of work.-VNA