The National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO/Mine Action segment has set an objective to clear and eradicate unexploded ordnances on 53,737 hectares of land from 2017-2021.
The target was announced at Wednesday’s 2018 work design meeting on the prioritization of UXO surveys, clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance.
The meeting was attended by NRA Director General, Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun, and government authorities from Vientiane and other provinces.
NRA Deputy Director, Mr Bounpheng Sisawath stated that 3,860 villages require UXO reviews and more than 53,737 hectares of land still need to be cleared of potentially active devices.
UXO surveys and clearance are currently in progress in Borikhamxay, Xaysomboun, Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Luang Prabang, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan, Xekong, Attapeu and Champassak provinces.
The coming year will see further UXO clearance, roving, surveys, community awareness programmes, and risk education in target provinces, while assistance will be available to victims in UXO-related accidents.
The NRA has reported that clearance teams have worked with international organizations in an effort to clear cluster munitions and other devices on 49,619 hectares of land in 15 provinces. This includes 38,391 hectares of agricultural land and 11,228 hectares of land required for development.
An estimated 1,288,974 cluster munitions have been cleared, in addition to more than 4,200 larger bombs, 646,044 bombies, 2,218 mines, and 636,536 other lethal devices.
The presence of unexploded ordnance slows development in the fields of agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism, hydro-electric power, transport, education and health.
One of the major obstacles for the government is sourcing funds for clearance operations. The NRA must continue to mobilize funds because the budget allocated to victim assistance is very limited at present.
UXO is an obstacle for economic and social development, contaminating land that could otherwise be used for the development of agriculture, industry, tourism and the construction of infrastructure.
During the Indochina War from 1964-1973, over 3 million tonnes of ordnance were dropped from enemy aircrafts on Laos, including 270 million cluster bombs and 4 million significantly larger bombs.
Tests conducted in the United States have found that cluster munitions have a failure rate of up to 30 percent, meaning a large amount of unexploded devices still remain in Laos.
A total of 87,000 square kilometres of land are thought to still be contaminated with UXO.