By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
December 24, 2012
Deputy Prime Minister Asang Laoly addressed a consultancy planning meeting on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance in Luang Prabang province recently, calling on all concerned to hasten the clearance process.
“I observe that it always takes a long time to carry out surveys and get the bombs cleared from our land. The current system of work wastes time and money,” he said.
Mr Asang said surveys should be accelerated to speed the clearance of UXO contaminated areas in line with the government’s development priorities.
Areas which are not development priorities can be cleared later if there is funding to complete the work, he added.
Funding for UXO clearance has increased since Laos hosted the First Meeting of States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2010. International organisations contributed US$19 million in 2010, US$30 million in 2011 and US$25 million in the first nin e months of 2012.
However, the budget for clearing contaminated land is still insufficient, Mr Asang said, and advised submitting a proposal to the United Nations Development Programme for additional funding and seeking assistance from other international organisations.
Laos still has more than 87,000 square kilometres of UXO contaminated land to be cleared, the deputy PM said.
Currently, the National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao) employs teams of 22 people to clear one hectare of land each month. But even using many teams they can only clear 5,000 hectares each year, and new technologies need to be employed to speed up the process.
Using special vehicles to clear scrub and sniffer dogs to find any remaining bombs are some of the measures which can be taken to speed the clearance effort if the funding is available.
At present, Laos receives about US$30 million in financial support each year, but needs another US$20 million annually.
“We still don’t have enough funding to clear what remains We need US$50 million each year to fulfill the National Strategy Plan for UXO Clearance from 2011-2020,” Mr Asang said.
The government will contribute funds to the clearance effort, while provincial and district authorities should also allocate funding to clear priority development areas, he added.
He advised UXO Lao to expand its clearance efforts and bolster its teams so it has the ability to undertake clearance in 80 percent of the impacted areas.
By 2020 the government aims to have cleared UXO from 200,000 hectares of land, removing devices from 20,000 hectares each year.
From 1996 to 2012, more than 31,000 hectares have been cleared and the total UXO identified and demolished during surface clearing now totals over 1.3 million items.