50 years since they first dumped the toxic herbicide Agent Orange on the jungles of Vietnam, this week the US government launched a program to clean up the soil around their former air base in Danang (central Vietnam). The chemical, which was used between 1961 and 1979 as part of the US’s Herbicidal War program, has been responsible for the death of 400,000 people and birth defects of 500,000 children according to the Vietnamese government. The cleanup of the dioxin has long been a dispute between both governments, as some officials in the US have been reluctant to acknowledge the longterm devastation that the chemical has caused.
The new cleanup program is currently scheduled to last 4 years at a cost of $43 million and involves a contaminated area of over 47 acres. At a ground breaking ceremony on Thursday, US embassador to Vietnam David Shear said, “We are both moving earth and taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past.” Since 2007 the US has spent $60 million on environmental restoration and social services, this new 4 year program is their first direct action towards cleaning up the chemical. They will employ the same excavation and cleanup techniques used on chemical cleanup sites back in the United States.
At the time of its use, the military’s strategy was to destroy forests and farmland, pushing villagers to US controlled cities. Since 20 million gallons of agent orange were dumped on the country, it has seeped into their soil and water supply. The Vietnamese government has used concrete barriers and several other preventative constructions to try and keep people off the land and away from its fishing waters. In total, 5 million acres of forest were destroyed by the use of the dioxin. There are still many more places in need of cleanup throughout the country, and some representatives of victims are calling on the US to provide direct compensation.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Photo: Vietnam And Cambodia