Laos to Clear 10,000 Hectares of UXO in 2020

Clearance of UXO in Laos (Photo: UXO Lao)

The Lao National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO and mine clearance sector has set a target this week to clear and destroy unexploded ordnance over 10,000 hectares of land in 2020.

The goal was announced at the annual meeting of the National Regulatory Authority to outline the work plan for 2020.

The meeting was attended by Lao Labor and Social Welfare Minister Khampheng Saysompheng, Chairman of the NRA Board, and other government officials from the capital and provinces of Vientiane.

According to reports from the Lao authorities, the United States dropped some 2 million tons of explosives on Laos between 1965 and 1973 during the Indochina War, including 270 million cluster bombs designed to break up and release a payload of smaller bombs.

Since 1996, 962 people have been injured and 251 have died in UXO-related accidents. Today, 111,196 hectares of land have been classified as Confirmed UXO hazardous areas and 60,190 hectares have been cleared of munitions, he said.

Head of the NRA, Chomyaeng Phengthongsawath, said the NRA will coordinate with UXO clearance organizations in 2020 to carry out surveys in 1,106 villages to remove and destroy UXO on 10,000 hectares of land.

The organization will continue its victim assistance program and campaigns on awareness of UXOs and risk education in target areas.

UXOs are a barrier to economic and social development, contaminating land which could otherwise be used for agriculture, industry, tourism and infrastructure.

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 kilometers of land is thought to still be contaminated with UXO.