Khe Sanh, Huong Hoa (25 Feb 2019): An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team managed by Project RENEW and Norwegian People’s Aid (RENEW-NPA) on Monday conducted two consecutive demolition tasks to dispose of unexploded ordnance in Huong Tan and Tan Lien Communes of Huong Hoa District, just south of the wartime DMZ and along the former route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The EOD operations followed up the findings of a RENEW-NPA Non-Technical Survey team which resulted from interviews of local people last week. It marked the official expansion of RENEW-NPA’s survey and clearance into this mountainous district, once home to the bloody battle of Khe Sanh and now fertile land that grows one of the best coffees in Vietnam.
60-year-old farmer Le Quang Tien, who lives near the former US Marine combat base at Khe Sanh, didn’t hesitate to take a break when the team announced that they were about to demolish some dangerous munitions found near his coffee plantation. After half an hour or so of careful work and a controlled explosion, the team invited the elderly farmer to come back to his coffee garden. Mr. Tien was excited and relieved to know that nine items of unexploded ordnance had been safely destroyed.
“Having lived here for 25 years, I have many times encountered wartime explosive weapons,” Mr. Tien said. “Fortunately, nothing has happened to me or my family,” the elderly father of three added. “Now we are very glad the teams have come to rid our land of these dangerous munitions.”
In another EOD task that took place later on Monday, the RENEW-NPA EOD team safely destroyed in place two cluster munitions found in a local cemetery in Tan Hao Village of Tan Lien Commune. With support and coordination from the district military, RENEW-NPA’s first demolitions in Huong Hoa District went safely. As a result, 11 unexploded munitions were safely destroyed on Monday.
Huong Hoa is the biggest district of Quang Tri Province that borders Savannakhet Province of Laos PDR. It is home to the two ethnic minority groups, Pako and Van Kieu, who continue to face disadvantages. Many families rely on slash-and-burn agriculture. Since 1975, unexploded ordnance (UXO) has resulted in 729 deaths and 429 injuries. The latest accident in this area occurred on 17 Oct 2015 and injured three people.
Stating on 18 February 2019, RENEW-NPA deployed Non-Technical Survey (NTS) team to Huong Hoa District as the first step in our effort to survey and clear unexploded ordnance (UXO) there. Based on the findings of the NTS team, RENEW-NPA will follow up with technical survey operations to establish Confirmed Hazardous Areas that need full clearance.
Huong Hoa is the last district of the province to benefit from RENEW-NPA’s UXO survey and clearance program currently funded by the U.S. Department of State and DFID, the UK’s Department for International Development. With completion of Huong Hoa District, the entire province will be on target to meet the goal of the provincial government, by 2025, to make Quang Tri Province the first province in Viet Nam to be declared “impact free” from the danger of unexploded bombs and munitions.
Project RENEW was established in 2001 as a joint effort between the government of Quang Tri Province and interested INGOs to “restore the environment and neutralize the effects of the war” – with the main focus on unexploded ordinance.
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is one of the leading organizations worldwide in humanitarian disarmament. NPA has worked in Vietnam since 2008 following the signing of an MOU with the government of Quang Tri People’s Committee to support the development of Project RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capacity. NPA’s operational footprint now covers all of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue Provinces, with an increase of assets to four Battle Area Clearance teams, one Non-Technical Survey team, four EOD teams, and 25 Technical Survey teams.