When Kenneth H. Young recently attended the Second International Conference for Victims of Agent Orange in Viet Nam, he saw the tragic aftermath for victimized Vietnamese children and relived his own horrors with Agent Orange. He wondered how long it is going to take the western world to accept responsibility for their actions. The following article released August 14, 2011, in the “Asian News” describes how the U.S. intends to clean up Viet Nam’s intoxicated land. BONNIE
Fifty years after the first use by the United States of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, the highly toxic defoliant still torments the land. According to the Dioxin Analysis Laboratory in Hanoi, the density of dioxin in the area is about 400 times international safety standards.
Now, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese project is working to clean up approximately 29 hectares around Da Nang, the site of a U.S. base during the 1960-1975 war where drums of Agent Orange were stored.
The United States will provide about $32 million (about 2.4 billion yen) to finance the decontamination work, which both governments aim to complete by 2013.
Experts say that it will take 20 years to remove soil in an estimated 28 highly contaminated areas across the country.
U.S. forces began using Agent Orange a year after the war broke out to destroy cover for communist Viet Cong guerrillas in forests and cultivated areas. By 1971, they had sprayed 72 million liters of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The northern side of Da Nang airport was a major storage area.
According to victim support groups, three million Vietnamese people have health problems linked to the defoliant, which contains a dioxin that causes cancer and birth defects.
Although Washington started providing compensation to U.S. servicemen damaged by the chemical in 1991 and normalized its diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995, it has not provided redress to Vietnamese victims.
Recently, however, Washington has been trying to strengthen its relations with Hanoi, partly in an effort to check China’s growing power in the region. The former foes have held joint military exercises.
In 2003, the United States offered Vietnam about $400,000 to fund research into eliminating Agent Orange contamination.
Calling the dioxin “a legacy of the painful past we share,” U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton promised to assist Vietnam in cleanup efforts when she visited the country in October last year.
The Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense will start the decontamination work next year, digging up ground and applying heat to degrade the dioxin. Military personnel have been working on bomb disposal in the area surrounding Da Nang since June as part of the preparations.
Vietnamese officials say the toxin has seeped into nearby rivers and marshes. That raises serious concerns about the health of residents in the area, according to Nguyen Thi Hien, who leads the Da Nang branch of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin.
“Residents were eating fish caught in nearby rivers until three or four years ago,” Nguyen said.
In Ho Chi Minh City, about 60 children with a variety of problems caused by Agent Orange including missing limbs and mental disabilities live in the “Peace Village” at Tu Du Hospital.
Some were left there because their parents found it too hard to raise bed-ridden children, according to officials at the hospital.
Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan said at a ceremony in Hanoi on Aug. 10, the 50th anniversary of the first use of Agent Orange, “We will demand that the United States take responsibility for the environmental destruction and health damage.”
By Daisuke Furuta