Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More efforts needed to solve dioxin issues - More efforts needed to solve dioxin issues

Vietnam-US projects to deal with the effects of Agent Orange/dioxin on the environment and human health has not met expectations despite efforts from both sides, says a Vietnamese official.

The Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Nguyen Xuan Cuong, made the statement at the fourth annual session of the Vietnam-US Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) on Agent Orange/dioxin in Hanoi on September 8.

It’s time the two governments reached official agreement on a long-term and effective programme for this issue, insisted Mr Cuong.

He said Vietnam gives priority to cleaning up dioxin-contaminated hotspots to prevent further exposure and providing healthcare services to the victims. He asked the JAC to put forward specific proposals to realise these two tasks.

He recommended that a Vietnam-US working group on health care be established to draw up a roadmap and propose solutions to minimise the number of children born with deformities. He lauded the Vietnam-US working group on the environment for creating a roadmap and technical solutions to deal with hotpots at Da Nang Airport in central Vietnam.

However, he said, the amount of money that the US government has promised to help with the environmental cleanup at this airport has not been disbursed yet, hampering JAC activities.

Mr Cuong thanked non-government organisations such as the Ford Foundation, the Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund, UN agencies and other organisations for showing their interest in projects to overcome the consequences of the toxic chemicals in Vietnam.

US Ambassador M. Michalak and US officials at the session. (Photo: Hanoimoi)

The US Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Michalak, acknowledged the implementation of healthcare and environmental projects which were proposed at their meeting last year.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed three-year projects with a number of organisations including Save the Children US, East Meets West Foundation and Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped to provide medical and rehabilitation services to handicapped people in Da Nang City, and to help them earn a livelihood.

The US has received bidding dossiers and will soon announce the winner of a project to assess the environmental impact and prepare to clean up dioxin-contaminated hotspots at Da Nang Airport. In June 2009, the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) carried out experiments at Da Nang Airport using bioremediation technology. The technology is expected to bring about highly-efficient, low-cost solutions.

During the three-day meeting, JAC delegates, scientists and representatives from non-governmental organisations will hear reports and propose solutions to the ongoing problems in Vietnam.

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