December 5, 2011 / 10:27 AM / 8 years ago

Vietnam seeks $500 mln to clear war-era bombs, mines

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam is seeking $500 million in assistance from domestic and international sources to help clear war-era bombs and mines and reduce the difficulties for its people and land contaminated by unexploded ordnance, officials said on Monday.

A soldier detects Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and defoliant Agent Orange at a presentation during the launch of the "Environmental Remediation of Dioxin Contamination" project in Vietnam's central Da Nang City June 17, 2011. REUTERS/Kham

Vietnam already has available $200 million to demine 500,000 hectares (1,930 square miles) in 14 provinces by 2015, or 7.6 percent of the total affected land, Deputy Labour Minister Bui Hong Linh told an international seminar.

Unexploded ordnance UXO.L has killed more than 42,000 people and injured more than 62,000 nearly four decades after the war ended, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the gathering.

“The task for the coming time is a difficult one,” Dung said. “The Vietnamese government always appreciates and wishes to continue receiving valuable help and support from the international community to overcome the consequences of bombs and mines left from the war.”

Vietnamese officials named no specific amounts sought from the international community.

The U.S. army used around 16 million tonnes of weaponry in the war that ended in 1975, Dung said. The country’s impoverished central region was subject to particularly heavy bombing and mining.

The U.S. administration sent troops to back up the South Vietnam government between 1965 and 1973 in a conflict known as the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese forces took over Saigon, the capital of the South Vietnam in April 1975, ending the war and reunifying the country.

Experts have estimated it will take hundreds of years to clear up unexploded bombs and mines which have contaminated a fifth of the total area of Vietnam, the world’s second-largest producer of coffee and the second-biggest rice exporter.

The Southeast Asian country launched a UXO action programme in 2010 to raise awareness, apply the latest demining technology and reduce accidents that have hit mostly children and workers.

U.S. Ambassador David Shear told the seminar Washington had already provided $62 million to help survivors of UXO accidents. The U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program has provided a further $37 million since 1989, the embassy said.

Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; Editing by Ron Popeski

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