The US government will provide more than $4.96 million in assistance to Laos from 2019 to 2022 to support an unexploded ordnance (UXO) survey as well as clearance and capacity development activities.
The work will be undertaken in the provinces of Huaphan, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan, Champassak and Attapeu. The funding will support a national survey to locate UXO, as well as clearance, risk education and compensation for victims, according to the US embassy.
A Memorandum of Understanding on the project was signed on Tuesday.
The document was signed by the Head of Office of the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action Sector of Laos, Chomyaeng Phengthongsawath, and the Project Manager of Tetra Tech, Michael Raine.
The event was attended by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, US Ambassador Rena Bitter, senior ministry officials and guests.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Khampheng said it is hoped that with sufficient effort and funding UXO accidents can be made a thing of the past by 2030.
He said survivors of UXO accidents should receive assistance with medical check-ups, treatment, and job creation.
UXO clearance in focus areas for national development is a key goal of the project. Land that could be used for agriculture, industry, tourism and the construction of infrastructure is still contaminated by UXO, including nearly 10,000 hectares that still contain unexploded devices and are awaiting clearance. It is expected that 5,000 hectares of land will be cleared within 2020, he added.
Ambassador Bitter said the US was proud of its close partnership with the Lao government in the UXO sector.
“We fully support the Lao government’s achievable Sustainable Development Goal 18 goal to eliminate UXO as a barrier to national development by 2030,” she said.
Chomyaeng said the additional support from the US would fund a survey that is essential for identifying the level of contamination, and understanding which areas are still impacted by unexploded cluster munitions.
The survey is a critical step in supporting the government to meet its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and will map areas with confirmed contamination.
In 2016, the US government committed to double its annual assistance to Laos for UXO clearance from $15 million in 2015 to $30 million annually, to total $90 million from 2016-2018.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK