New project launched to help Viet Nam overcome impact of dioxin/agent orange

Jun 28, 2010

Ha Noi – The United Nations Development  Programme (UNDP) will work with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), the Ministry of Defence, and local authorities on a new project called “Environmental Remediation of Dioxin Contaminated  Hotspots  in Viet Nam”,  which  was launched  today  in Ha Noi. The USD  5 million project is funded by the Global Environment  Facility (GEF) and UNDP, and will be implemented by MONRE with UNDP providing technical support.

Between 72 and 80 million litres of herbicide mixtures were sprayed over South Viet Nam during the war. The most infamous herbicide mixture was Agent Orange, which contained the highly toxic by-product  dioxin. Dioxin contaminated  hotspots still exist today, in places where the herbicides were stored and loaded.

The concentration  of dioxin in the three main hotspots is much higher than nationally and internationally  agreed standards.  Without action, the hotspots will continue to contaminate the wider environment  and pose a serious health risk to people living and working nearby. Since 2007 UNDP has funded a project to assess the extent of pollution as well as possible technologies to deal with the pollution, and is now ready for field operations.

The new project focuses on dealing with dioxin contamination  at the airport in Bien Hoa. It will  also  support  action  at  Phu  Cat  and  Da  Nang  airports,  as  well  as  smaller  hotspots elsewhere  in Viet Nam. The project will use internationally  proven techniques  to treat and rehabilitate the dioxin hotspots. Although the origin of these hotspots in Viet Nam is unique, the new techniques  can be used regardless  of the origin of contamination – both in other areas in Viet Nam as well as globally. The project will also build capacities in Viet Nam to remediate dioxin hotspots and other contaminated areas.

GEF is funding the elimination of dioxins  according to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent  Organic Pollutants which Viet Nam ratified in 22 July 2002. The USD 5 million project will be an important contribution to  actual clean-up of contaminated soil and sediment, but significantly  more funds will be needed for the full remediation of all dioxin hotspots in Viet Nam.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Minister  Pham Khoi Nguyen of MONRE said: “We highly appreciate the involvement of UNDP and GEF in the remediation of dioxin/Agent Orange contamination in Viet Nam. The project is also a good opportunity for other international partners to become involved in the thorough treatment of dioxin contaminated areas in Viet Nam and we welcome other organizations  and individuals  to join UNDP and GEF.”

"Viet Nam has been making many efforts to overcome  the dioxin legacy of the war. This includes cleaning up the hotspots, especially at the worst affected site, Bien Hoa airport. However, at both Bien Hoa airport and other  hotspots much more is needed. A total destruction of all the contaminants  in all hotspots is essential in order to protect people, workers and the environment, and is expected under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants," said United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr John Hendra at the launching ceremony.

Mr Hendra also said "the United States government and NGOs such as the Ford Foundation have supported these efforts. This is highly appreciated, and we all look for that to continue and  be  stepped  up.  Through  this  project  UNDP  will  help  address  the  environmental challenge  of the dioxin legacy.  UNICEF  is already supporting  disabled  children,  including disabled children in dioxin affected areas. The UN is very happy to increase its contribution to these collective efforts and apply its knowledge  and networks to these two sides of the dioxin issue, and enable others to join as well."

Contact information

Pernille Goodall, One UN Communications team
Mbl: 0913209987
Nguyen My Hang, Office 33, MONRE
Mbl 0983250573