The Laos government has set a target to remove and destroy unexploded ordnance (UXO) on 93,362ha, of which 9,179ha has already been cleared.
The target was reported on Friday at a press conference held to mark the 9th anniversary on August 1 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The event was led by Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, who is also chairman of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for UXO/Mine Action Sector Board.
Khampheng said 93,362ha had been identified as Confirmed UXO Hazardous Areas by a survey. To date, 9,179ha have been cleared but a huge area of 84,183ha is still partially contaminated.
“This year, a non-technical survey is being carried out in 262 villages while a technical survey is taking place on 15,207ha. A total of 11,360ha have been identified as Confirmed UXO Hazardous Areas and 3,647ha have been cleared of munitions,” he said.
“Some 43,323 bombs have been destroyed in addition to 34,263 cluster munitions. Community awareness programmes and risk education has also been carried out in 302 villages, attended by 122,518 people,” he added.
“Victim assistance funding has supported treatment for 12 accident victims, health recovery for 11 people affected by UXO, occupational therapy for four people, prosthetic and assistance equipment for 12 people, and assistance to the families of three people killed by UXO,” Khampheng said.
This year, UXO surveys have been conducted in the provinces of Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Luang Prabang, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Champassak, Saravan, Xekong and Attapeu.
UXO community awareness and risk education campaigns are taking place in at-risk areas of the country, aiming to reduce the number of UXO casualties to less than 40 a year.
Throughout 2018, some 6,003ha were cleared and 91,468 cluster munitions destroyed. Three people died and 21 people were injured in UXO-related accidents.
The widespread presence of UXO is an obstacle to Laos’ economic and social development, contaminating land that could otherwise be used for the development of agriculture, industry, tourism, and construction of infrastructure.
From 2017-2021, the government and the UNDP in Laos are continuing to support the NRA to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 18 to remove UXO as an obstacle to development.
During the Indochina War from 1964-1973, close to 3 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on Laos, including about 270 million sub-munitions in the form of cluster bombs and about four million larger bombs.
Tests done in the US have found that these types of cluster munitions can have a failure rate of up to 30 per cent.
Vast tracts of land in Laos remain contaminated with UXO, amounting to a total of 87,000 square kilometres. VIENTIANE TIMES