New project launched to help Viet Nam overcome impact of dioxin/agent orange
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."
Pernille Goodall, One UN Communications team
Nguyen My Hang, Office 33, MONRE