U.S., Vietnam begin dioxin cleanup at Danang airport
By Thanh Hai - The Saigon Times Daily
A cameraman films at Danang International Airport, a former U.S. airbase, where the joint US-Vietnam Dioxin Cleaning Project broke ground on Thursday - Photo: Reuters
DANANG – The U.S. Department of Defense, together with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Danang City authorities, on Thursday started a major project to clean up dioxin on part of Danang International Airport.
The project marks the first time America has got involved in cleaning up Agent Orange in Vietnam since the end of the war nearly four decades ago.
The U.S. government has provided a grant of US$41 million for the joint U.S.-Vietnam Dioxin Cleaning Project while the Vietnamese Government has contributed VND35 billion managed by Vietnamese People’s Army Air and Air Defense Force.
With the project set for completion at the end of 2016, dioxin, a dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange which American aircraft sprayed on Vietnamese jungles to destroy Vietnamese communist fighters’ cover, will be cleaned up. Other dioxin-contaminated areas in the country will also benefit from the project in the future.
Dioxin has been pointed out as a cause of cancer, birth defects and other disabilities.
David B. Shear, U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, said the project is the outcome of the two nations’ efforts based on the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. Thanks to the support from U.S. President Obama and Congress, the U.S. embassy in Vietnam has worked with the office of the Steering Committee No.33 under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on policies and programs to treat dioxin-affected areas in Vietnam.
In end-September USAID will carry out another program to support disabled people in Danang and other localities, Shear said. America is preparing to assess the environment in Bien Hoa, another site affected by the herbicide in Vietnam, in collaboration with the Vietnamese Government and other sponsors.
The Ford Foundation has financed an initial study to identify dioxin-contaminated sites in Vietnam as well as to prevent the spread of the toxic chemical in Danang Airport. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies organization have sponsored a laboratory worth US$6 million to help Vietnam analyze dioxin.
Other organizations like East Meets West Foundation, the Children’s Relief Fund and the Vietnam Association in Support of Disabled People have also lent a helping hand to Agent Orange victims at home.