ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Unexploded ordnance clearance reaches almost 40,000 hectares
Publication Date : 31-07-2013
Almost 1.5 million items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been destroyed in Laos on over 39,820 hectares since 1996, Deputy Director of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA), Bounpheng Sisawath, said on Tuesday.
He confirmed that Laos will celebrate the third anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions on August 1 in Vientiane.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world and the effects of the Indochina War from 1964-1973 are still being felt. As the country is still heavily impacted with bombs, Laos was one of many countries in the world to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) on Aug 1, 2010.
The convention was signed by 111 states and prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions.
Laos is one of the 75 states that have since ratified the treaty and the country will celebrate the third anniversary of the CCM's entry into force on Thursday.
More than 288 million cluster munitions, known locally as "bombies", were dropped on Laos during the Indochina War and over 75 million items of this particular UXO problem remain spread throughout the country.
Each type of bombie explodes in a different way. The BLU26 bomb, for example, is impact-fired. This specific weapon was used more than any other kind in Laos, with almost 160 million dropped on the country. More than 41 million of the BLU26 bombs remain in the country, according to the NRA.
Official figures report that there have been about 100 new casualties from bombies since 2010, and the accidents caused by them account for 30 per cent of the total UXO casualties, while 40 per cent of these are children.
In order to reduce the number of people who are killed and injured in each province as a result of UXO, over 600,000 bombies have been cleared and destroyed since 1996.
"The government's task is to decrease the number of UXO deaths and injuries around the country, and to open up more agricultural land. This will also allow for government development projects such as irrigation systems, hospitals, health care centres and schools," Bounpheng said.
In Laos, the explosive remnants of war represent a large obstacle for infrastructure building and socio-economic development efforts.
About 37 per cent of the country's area or about 87,000 square km are contaminated by all types of UXO.
Based on the calculations from the UXO bombing data records, the size of contaminated land impacted by cluster sub-munitions is about 8,470 square km.
The government collaborates with the United Nations Development Programme and international development partners to address this problem, and Laos has adopted a country-specific Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 9 on reducing the impact of UXO.
Clearance activities in Laos are a prerequisite for the achievement of the greater MDGs and for graduation from least-developed country status by 2020.