|Nguyen Thi Sen shows off her home that protects her from flooding
For many years, Nguyen Thi Sen, 61, in Phu Cat district in the central province of Binh Dinh, had experienced water coming into her house during flooding season. “I used to be scared when the flood season came,” Sen said. “I often had to put my belongings to higher ground and take my children and the cow to relatives or friends until the flooding passed.”
However, the farmer was recently provided with a plot of land above the flood plain. She had her new house built and construction completed in time for her and her children to move in before flooding season started. “I am no longer worried about it,” she said with a smile.
Sen is among 29 families who have been relocated from the lowland to this higher area in Cat Nhon commune. The local government provided each family with 200 square metres of land and VND20 million ($870) to build a house.
This safe area is part of 9,000 hectares of land that has been cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines by the Korea-Vietnam Mine Action project. Leaders of the Vietnam National Mine Action Centre (VNMAC), the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam have officially handed over the map with post-clearance land and documents to the local government and communities for socioeconomic development.
Both UNDP resident representative Caitlin Wiesen and KOICA country director Cho Han-Deog appreciated the dedication and effort of the survey and clearance teams in ensuring that the work was carried out safely, at high quality, and on schedule, despite challenges caused by the pandemic and the unfavourable weather conditions.
“I am so moved to hand over the documents of surveyed and cleared land in Binh Dinh, one of most UXO-contaminated provinces in Vietnam,” Wiesen said. “The UNDP is honoured to partner with the VNMAC and KOICA to extend this work and release land for people’s development.”
More than four decades after the war, 40 per cent (nearly 250,000ha) of Binh Dinh’s land area remains contaminated with UXO and landmines. The Korea-Vietnam Mine Action Project was launched in March 2018 to strengthen the governance and management of national mine action activities, as well as to promote people’s safety and development in areas contaminated with UXO in Binh Dinh and Quang Binh provinces.
“The project has provided a large area of clean and safe land for the province’s development and local people’s expansion of production, especially for the construction of social infrastructure such as healthcare centres and schools,” said Nguyen Thi Tuyet, Vice Chairwoman of Phu Cat People’s Committee.
The $20-million project is funded by the South Korean government, through KOICA, and implemented by the VNMAC and the UNDP. The project has so far surveyed nearly 17,000ha of land and cleared 9,000ha of confirmed hazardous areas in Quang Binh and Binh Dinh, providing more land for development projects in the central provinces.
A large database was created with 75,000 people with disabilities, of which 9,100 were caused by UXO and landmines. Meanwhile, nearly 90,000 local students and 363,000 other community members were educated about how to remain safe in areas with potential UXO contamination.
Other development partners are helping other central provinces such as Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. Hence, the Vietnamese government and the international community are gathering important data for evidence-based policy making in the mine action sector. The UNDP and KOICA said they “will continue to offer opportunities for Vietnam to collect necessary data to measure progress, as well as enabling the government to set ambitious targets for this decade,” and “stand ready to support the Vietnamese government to achieve a shared ambition of eliminating the impact of UXO and landmines on the population of Vietnam by 2030, as well as putting a complete stop to civilian casualties from the remnants of war.”
Placing mine action at the forefront of Vietnamese chairmanship of the UN Security Council (UNSC) during this month is a signal of global commitment, rooted in a conviction that the issue can be dealt with through strong regional and national institutions. It is a message which was highlighted during the Vietnam-led UNSC open debate on April 8 on mine action and sustaining peace, with stronger partnerships for better delivery.
“The mine action sector in Vietnam is blessed with a strong and genuine partnership between government and development partners,” Wiesen said. “Strong sector coordination and collaboration are key to make Vietnam impact free by 2030. To the extent possible, the international community should commit to making the support predictable and long-term to align resources with government plans.”
Wiesen added that the important progress made over the past few years is a clear indicator that it is indeed feasible for the mine action sector to think big and be ambitious, yet also have realistic strategies and plans to reach the finish line.
“Last year, we celebrated the issuance of regulations on implementation and management of mine action. This year, we can applaud the continued efforts to update the national regulatory framework in line with International Mine Action Standards,” she explained. “This is the kind of steady improvement of the sector makes it possible to set even more ambitious goals.”