Vietnam-US joint venture to clean up Agent Orange underway

Vietnamese Mine Sweepers

Vietnamese mine sweepers in Da Nang Vietnamese mine sweepers in Da Nang demonstrate how areas will be cleared of unexploded ordnance. Photograph: Richard Nyberg/AP

The Associated Press reported on Friday that Vietnam has begun sweeping for ordinances around the Da Nang airbase once occupied by the US military. This marks the first phase of a joint plan with the US to clean up environmental damage caused by the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, a lasting legacy of the Vietnam war.


Vietnam’s ministry of Defense will begin sweeping areas near the Da Nang airport for unexploded ordnance. It will then work with the US Agency for International Development to remove dioxin – a chemical used in Agent Orange – from soil and sediment at the site. This action is expected to begin early next year, according to a statement by the US embassy in Hanoi.

Contamination from dioxin which has been linked to cancers and birth defects – has remained a thorny topic between the former foes. Washington was slow to respond to the issue, arguing for years that more research was needed to show that the wartime spraying caused health problems and disabilities among Vietnamese.

Virginia Palmer, the US embassy chargé d’affaires, said: “As secretary of state Hillary Clinton remarked while visiting Vietnam last October, the dioxin in the ground here is ‘a legacy of the painful past we share’, but the project we will undertake here, as our two nations work hand-in-hand to clean up this site, is a sign of the hopeful future we are building together.”

The $32m (£19.7m) project will remove dioxin from 29 hectares (71 acres) of land at the Da Nang site. A 2009 study of the area by the Canadian environmental firm Hatfield Consultants found chemical levels that were 300 to 400 times higher than international limits.

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About Steven Chin

Steven Chin is the web editor for the Vietnam Reporting Project and principal of MKmedia, a San Francisco Bay Area consulting firm that provides Web development, content and social media strategies to companies and nonprofit organizations.

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