HANOI, April 29, 2010 (AFP) - Vietnam will seek international funding to help it clear unexploded wartime ordnance from hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, a government decision received Thursday says.
The 15-year National Mine Action Plan was approved last week by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. AFP received a copy of the document Thursday as the country's leaders marked 35 years since the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975.
Vietnamese officials have estimated they need more than 34 trillion dong (1.76 billion dollars) for the removal of unexploded ordnance under the plan, covering 2010-2025.
It aims to clear about 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres), or 20 percent of the nation's land contaminated by wartime munitions that failed to explode.
The initiative follows a study last year by Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and Vietnam's Ministry of Defence which found that more than a third of the land in six central Vietnamese provinces is lethally contaminated with unexploded bombs and land mines.
Unexploded ordnance has killed 10,529 people and wounded more than 12,000 in the six provinces since the war ended, said the study, which cost almost two million dollars and was funded by the US State Department.
The government now plans to go beyond the hard-hit central provinces to map contamination nationwide. It also aims to assist victims, offer education programmes to reduce the risk for people in heavily-contaminated provinces, and advocate for support and funding.
Funding will come from the state budget as well as other local and international sources, an English translation of the government decision says. It does not give a total cost for the entire programme but officials in December estimated that clearance alone would cost 34 trillion dong.
Government support for the victims of leftover ordnance "has become an economic burden for the national economy," last year's study said, adding that unexploded bombs create fear among people who live in contaminated areas, hindering economic activity.
At least three million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans died during the war.