Post-war bombs and mines in Vietnam have been seriously impacting on the country’s socio-economic development and defence-security. Thus, minimizing and sustainably settling post-war bomb and mine consequences and impacts is an urgent task and responsibility of the entire society with the Vietnam National Mine Action Centre (VNMAC) playing an important role in counselling and coordinating the performance of this task.
The wars in Vietnam have ended for a long time, but the amount of post-war unexploded ordnance has been extremely large, contaminating about 6.13 million hectares of land, posing a threat to the people’s life, and directly impacting on social security and the country’s development. According to statistics, between 1945 and 1975, the volume of bombs, mines, and ordnance used by foreign countries in the wars in Vietnam was 15 million tons, 4 times as many as in the World War II. Since the end of the war (April 1975), the post-war bombs and mines killed over 40,000 people and injured 60,000 people mainly in the central provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, and Quang Tri. It is worth noting that most of victims of post-war bombs and mines are breadwinners, and many of them are still alive but unable to work, consequently becoming a burden to their family and the society.
Fully aware of this situation, the Party and State have stepped up the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences via many drastic measures. The Prime Minister approved the National Action Program for the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences (the Program 504 for short) and established the State Steering Committee for the Program 504 and the Standing Agency of the Steering Committee 504 in order to uniformly direct the process from Central to local level. At the same time, the Prime Minister decided to found the VNMAC which would be tasked with counselling and coordinating the implementation of the Program 504, boosting international cooperation and encouraging and receiving international support for the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences in Vietnam.
Maj. Gen. Phung Ngoc Son signing a MoU on cooperation and provision of senior technical consultants for the VNMAC
Since its inception 5 years ago, the VNMAC has fulfilled its role as an assisting office of the Standing Agency of the National Steering Committee for the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences, being highly appreciated by the Government and the Ministry of National Defence (MND). Notably, the VNMAC has counselled the development and implementation of plans in accordance with the task and requirements set by each project, while actively renewing the work of education and propagation and humanitarian aid related to bomb and mine consequences. In addition, significance has been attached to promoting international cooperation, encouraging the support from organizations both at home and abroad, and mobilizing resources, especially financial ones in the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences. Thanks to the VNMAC’s active counselling and the involvement of competent offices, with the Engineer Corps playing the core role, up to now, millions of bombs and mines have been collected and removed while hundreds of thousands of hectares of land have been liberated, thereby contributing to settling the post-war consequences, recreating the land, protecting the environment, minimizing the damage caused by bombs and mines, facilitating and stabilizing the people’s production, business and life, particularly in the areas heavily contaminated by bombs and mines.
However, due to the large amount of post-war bombs and mines, the state of contamination from bombs and mines is still very serious. It should be noted that most of the areas highly contaminated by bombs and mines has a slow economic growth rate as investors do not dare to make investments, and the people often feel scared during their production.
In the upcoming time, to facilitate the socio-economic development and ensure the people’s lives, grounded on its function and assigned task, the VNMAC determines to achieve a sense of unity, proactively overcome difficulties, perform its task comprehensively, and raise the effectiveness of the Program 504, with a focus on the following.
1. Enhancing the work of propagation to raise the awareness and responsibility of authorities, sectors and the entire society towards the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences as the basis for the people to effectively prevent and avoid the accidents caused by post-war bombs and mines, especially in the highly contaminated areas. This work must be aimed at rendering the people both at home and abroad fully aware of the amount of post-war bombs and mines across the country and their impacts and serious consequences as a constant threat to Vietnam. To do so, the VNMAC diversifies forms and methods of propagation, closely combines regular propagation with intense propagation on the occasion of the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action (April 4th). At the same time, great value is attached to encouraging the role of the Standing Agency of the Steering Committee 7011 and particularly the VNMAC in counselling, planning and conducting the work of propagation. Due regard is paid to cooperating with press agencies both at home and abroad in the work of propagation in various forms, such as visual press, audio press, social networks in order to create the widespread outpouring throughout the international community, particularly the countries which joined the wars in Vietnam. Doing so will raise the awareness and responsibility of sectors and localities towards the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences and help encourage the support both at home and abroad for this important task.
2. Improving the VNMAC’s capability in counselling, managing and operating the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences. In the medium term, the VNMAC will actively advise the Standing Agency of the Steering Committee 701 on drawing up the Circular on guiding the implementation of the Government’s Decree 18/2019/NĐ-CP on managing and performing the work of settling post-war unexploded ordnance consequences, and then submit it to the MND for approval. Besides, it reviews, amends, and supplements the national standards for bomb and mine clearance, while striving to complete all targets and plans in the 2016-2020 period set by the Standing Agency of the Steering Committee 701 and those set by the National Action Program for the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences in the 2015-2025 period. In this regard, priority should be given to tapping all resources from the country and the international community in an effort to basically handle the impacts and consequences caused by the post-war bombs and mines and facilitate the socio-economic development; rehabilitating victims of bombs and mines; abiding by the country’s law and international conventions signed by Vietnam.
To meet the targets and requirements set by the Action Program and the plans of the Steering Committee, there is a need for the involvement of sectors and forces with the Engineer Corps playing the core role. Over the past years, in spite of the fact that the post-war bombs and mines are in a large number and scattered in various areas, and the requirements for the bomb and mine clearance, particularly the safety maintenance are high, the Engineer Corps has successfully fulfilled the assigned task. This creates a favourable condition for the VNMAC to closely cooperate with offices, localities, and particularly Engineer units in building the plans/projects for searching, collecting and handing the unexploded ordnance, with a focus on the key areas of the Central provinces and the Central Highlands, and the border areas, thereby facilitating socio-economic development and consolidating defence-security. In the upcoming time, it strives to clean about 50,000 hectares per year and decrease the rate of contamination caused by bombs and mines across the country to below 15%, while focusing on the localities heavily contaminated by bombs and mines.
3. Well coordinating the projects and enhancing international cooperation. Within the Program 504, the VNMAC will give priority to coordinating the technical surveys, bomb and mine clearance, and implementation of the projects for supporting victims of bombs and mines; closely cooperate with localities heavily contaminated by bombs and mines in conducting surveys, planning the projects, and mobilizing the international support. It will cooperate with ministries and sectors in negotiating with and encouraging sponsors and signing the projects with them in the 2016-2020 period; build and submit the projects for technical surveys and bomb, mine clearance in the provinces of Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Cao Bang, Quang Nam, and Quang Tri under the sponsorship of countries and organizations both at home and abroad. At the same time, it will prepare a report on the investment in the 2nd phase of the Project for technical surveys and detailed maps of areas contaminated by bombs and mines on a nationwide scale and submit it to higher echelons for the approval and implementation. It will carry out the Project on building the procedures for technical surveys to identify the areas contaminated by post-war bombs and mines in A Luoi district, Thua Thien Hue province.
To raise the effectiveness of the settlement of bomb and mine consequences, the VNMAC will continue to expand international cooperation more comprehensively so as to take advantage of the support from countries and international organizations, particularly in terms of personnel training, transfer of technology, finance, specialized equipment and research. In this regard, it will concentrate on expanding relations with potential partners and effectively maintaining cooperation with the main partners, such as America, South Korea, Hungary, Japan, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, offices of other countries’ governments, and international organizations (JICA, KOICA, UNDP, etc.). Moreover, due attention will be paid to organizing and taking part in international conferences, and cooperating with organizations both at home and abroad in stepping up the operations of the Mine Action Partnership Group (MAPG), and working with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and relevant offices in formulating the medium-term and long-term plan for cooperation on the settlement of post-war bomb and mine consequences.