Standing Deputy PM Truong Hoa Binh speaks at the event. (Photo: VNA)

The ceremony, held by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Vietnam Defence-Air Force Service and the National Action Centre for Toxic Chemicals and Environmental Treatment (NACCET), was attended by Standing Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, US Deputy Chief of Mission in Vietnam Caryn R. McClelland, and representatives from competent ministries and sectors.

An area of 37 hectares of the airbase’s western portion was handed over to the USAID to begin ground operations for the dioxin clean-up project. The objective is to first eliminate the risk of further dioxin migration off base, working with Dong Nai authorities to clean areas off base, and then to treat and contain contaminated soils.

Earlier, the US government committed 300 million USD to restoring the airbase and surrounding areas, which will take 10 years to complete.

Speaking at the event, Standing Deputy PM Truong Hoa Binh hailed efforts by Vietnamese and US relevant sides for their meticulous preparation for the project.

Over 3.6 million hectares of forest were destroyed while 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to the Agent Orange/Dioxin, and about 3 million people became AO/Dioxin victims, he said adding that the toxic chemical also left effect on the third generation.

He highlighted that the dioxin detoxification project at Bien Hoa airbase is a vivid illustration for the US’s strong commitment to joining hands with Vietnam in the post-war recovery efforts.

He ordered the Ministry of Defence to coordinate with relevant ministries, sectors and localities to remove bottlenecks so as to accelerate the implementation of the project, while working to ensure safety for people and the environment during the detoxification process.

Caryn R. McClelland said that the project is carried out at Bien Hoa airbase following its success at Da Nang airport, and it is a notable example for the sound partnership between Vietnam and the US, who were ex-enemies but are trying to overcome the past and pave the way toward a future of friendship and prosperity.

Located about 30 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh city, Bien Hoa, is a major base for US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine units during the war. In 2016, USAID, in partnership with the Government of Vietnam, completed an assessment of dioxin contamination at the airbase. The assessment identified almost 500,000 cubic metres of dioxin-contaminated soil and sediment in need of remediation - almost four times the volume that was remediated at Da Nang Airport.

On the occasion, Mr. Binh and the US diplomat witnessed the signing of an agreement to implement a 65 million USD programme to support persons with disabilities in eight priority provinces in the next five years between USAID and NACCET./.

CPV/VNA