VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): Lao and Russian military personnel are speeding up the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Khammuan province, with joint operations taking place in 2022 and 2023.
The work will be supervised by the responsible committee and UXO inspection and recovery teams, with the aim of clearing land for farming.
Speaking at a meeting between the two sides, Deputy Head of the field supervision team for the clearance and destruction of unexploded ordnance of the Lao People’s Army, Lieutenant Colonel Othong Khambanxay, said Nakai district in Khammuan province is a residential area, but was the site of ground and air combat during the Indochina war.
The district was heavily bombed and a large amount of unexploded munitions still litter the ground, making it unsafe for farmers to plant and harvest crops.
To improve the situation for farmers by speeding up clearance operations in the area, Lieutenant Colonel Othong said the two sides had surveyed and removed UXO from 20,588sq m of land, equalling two out of the 50 hectares targeted for clearance.
Teams uncovered 27 items of unexploded ordnance and deactivated them.
At the same time, the two sides are discussing their shared responsibilities in the operation.
The National Regulatory Authority for the UXO Mine Action Sector in Laos (NRA) aims to clear unexploded ordnance from 100,000 hectares of land by 2030 and to survey 250,000 hectares for buried wartime munitions.
The national strategy on solving the problem of unexploded ordnance under the “Safe Path Forward III” plan for 2021-2030 sets a target to clear UXO from 10,000 hectares of land each year.
According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, 53,484 UXO items were detonated by clearance teams from January to August last year, including 75 bombs, 41,134 bombies (cluster bomblets) and 12,261 other items.
One of the targets for UXO clearance teams was to achieve a sharp fall in the number of UXO-related casualties, but 15 people were injured in accidents.
The UXO programme also aimed to provide assistance to 1,140 accident victims, but only 28 people received help, equal to just 2.5 percent of the target.
Authorities had also planned to clear unexploded ordnance from 10,000 hectares of land, but only 3,063 hectares of land was cleared, equal to 31 per cent of the target.