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UXO clearance authority seeks more funding

The government has called for more support for UXO clearance operations, with 132,000 hectares of land having been surveyed and confirmed to be contaminated with unexploded ordnance.
Director General of the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action Sector under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Chomyaeng Phengthongsawath, told reporters during a field visit to Xieng Khuang province recently that the authority is sourcing more funding and technical assistance for UXO clearance in nine provinces.

In recent years, about US$30 million per year has been provided through the United Nations Development Programme and other international organisations for use in UXO clearance. 
“Laos is heavily affected by unexploded ordnance. Of the estimated 270 million cluster munitions dropped on Laos during the Indochina War, about 30 percent failed to explode. But only one percent of these devices have been removed since 1996,” Mr Chomyaeng said.
The authority’s plan calls for UXO to be cleared from 10,000 hectares of land each year but only an average of 8,000 hectares has been cleared each year due to limited funding and equipment. UXO clearance is difficult because most cluster munitions were dropped in mountainous areas, in rivers and forests, Mr Chomyaeng said.
However, the authority will continue to work with ministries, other sectors and local authorities to set priority areas for clearance, especially land that can be used for development purposes as well as residential areas, to support social and economic development.
When land has been cleared, the authority will consider its appropriate use.
UXO clearance is currently underway in the provinces of Huaphan, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan, Champassak, Xekong and Attapeu. Clearance operations aim to free up land for activities that will enhance the well-being and livelihoods of impoverished rural communities.
UXO is an obstacle to economic and social development, contaminating land that could otherwise be used for agriculture, industry, tourism and the construction of infrastructure.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world per capita. Throughout the Second Indochina War (1964-1973), over 2 million tonnes of ordnance were dropped on Laos. Over 270 million cluster munitions were dropped from American aircraft, leaving an estimated 80 million live bomblets (bombies) scattered and buried around the country.



By Phomphong Laoin
(Latest Update
April 06,

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