Trieu Ai Commune, Trieu Phong District (3 May 2012)
More than three decades after the war has ended, the people of the Ai Tu Village still live with the constant threat of cluster bombs, landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Because of the pressing need to make ends meet, Ai Tu villagers risk being killed or maimed by ERW in order to reclaim land for agricultural expansion. Fortunately, since RENEW’s Battle Area Clearance (BAC) team started their operations in the area two months ago, there is hope for the people of Ai Tu Village.
An area consisting of 240,000 square meters of land is being cleared and is expected to be released to the community by the end of this year. The clearance was initiated following a technical survey conducted by RENEW’s Cluster Munitions Team in 2011. Using USAF bombing data and local reports, the survey looked for evidence of cluster munitions, munitions that often prevent the normal use of land as they are considered the most dangerous remnant of war to plague the area.
“We prioritize clearance operations in accordance with local development needs. Local villagers of Ai Tu need more safe land to grow acacia trees, the major source of income for the entire village but they are afraid of ERW,” said Dinh Ngoc Vu, Ops Manager of Project RENEW. “Also we have data showing the area is heavily impacted by ERW and that Ai Tu Village sustained 47 ERW casualties, including 32 deaths since the war ended,” added Vu.
Since Feb 2012, RENEW clearance team have released 20,000 square meters of land and destroyed nearly 200 items of ERW, including 137 cluster munitions.
“Living here since 1975, I have witnessed many people being killed or injured by ERW while farming, so I’m not surprised to see that the RENEW team has found so many ERW in this area.” said Cao Van Thiet, a 55-year-old villager.
“We are grateful to Project RENEW’s humanitarian assistance. One-hundred families in our village will have access to safe land to expand acacia cultivation earning more income,” Thiet said.
According to Truong Cong Vinh, BAC Team Leader, this operation highlights RENEW’s continued commitment to releasing safe land to support people’s development needs. “As the economy is moving forward, people need to access more land to develop and we will make sure that people have land to grow trees without being scared of ERW,” said Vinh.
Project RENEW would like to thank the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian People’s Aid and U.S. Department of State for their financial and technical support.