Vietnam is a country that has been plagued by war for many years during the twentieth century. Even before the infamous Vietnam War, which saw the Americans fight the Viet Cong, Vietnamese people were fighting in the independence war of Indochina. Remnants of war are still present in the country today in the form of land mines and other explosives.
Yes, there are still unexploded landmines in Vietnam today. Over one hundred thousand people have been affected by leftover landmines following the Vietnam War’s end. Casualties related to exploding mines have drastically reduced in recently, but many landmines still need to be removed.
Are There Still Some Unexploded Landmines In Vietnam?
The Vietnam War left many tragic legacies on the country, one of them in the form of millions of tons of explosives scattered throughout the land.
Most people who have not followed Vietnam’s story following the extended Vietnam War do not realize how serious the issue of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) has been for the locals.
Following the Vietnam War’s end in 1975, over a hundred thousand people have suffered from a leftover explosive from the war. Nearly forty thousand people have died, with the remaining sixty thousand left with severe injuries, like missing limbs.
Fortunately, the number of casualties related to mine (and other explosive remnants) has drastically decreased, with just one Vietnamese suffering from a mine explosion in 2019.
Nevertheless, there remains a significant number of American and Vietnamese mines around the country. About half of Vietnam’s provinces remain affected, with areas that saw much military activity having a high concentration of remnant explosives.
Where Are Most Of Vietnam’s Landmines?
Leftover landmines and other war explosives are scattered throughout the country. However, provinces, such as Quang Tri, that were part of the North and South Vietnamese borders during the war saw a particularly high concentration of mines.
What was termed the “Demilitarized Zone,” the land separating the North and South border, is perhaps the area with the most concentrated land mines.
How Many Unexploded Landmines Are There In Vietnam?
It is hard to determine exactly how many unexploded landmines remain in Vietnam.
However, research conducted by the Vietnamese government suggests that about fourteen million tons of explosives (mines, cluster bombs, daisy-cutters, precision-guided munitions, and high-explosives) were placed throughout the Vietnam War. Today, about eight hundred thousand tons of dangerous explosive devices remain.
It could be that close to a third of these explosives failed to detonate during the war, which is why the post-war casualties have been so high.
It is estimated that over six million hectares of land are covered by buried explosives, making Vietnam one of the most contaminated countries regarding ERW.
Who Placed Landmines In Vietnam?
Vietnam is a country that has been subject to power struggles since the 1940s with the first Indochina War. This war was followed by the well-known Vietnam War beginning in the 1950s.
Land mines were used in the first Indochina War, but their use by the French Army remained restricted compared to the second Indochina War (Vietnam War). Nevertheless, there could be some land mines still buried in Vietnam today from the first Indochina War.
Today, most leftover landmines were placed by both sides fighting in the Vietnam War. Thus, following the end of one of the bloodiest wars in history, the Vietnamese authorities were left with dealing with American and Vietnamese mines.
The landmines used by the Americans and their allies were the M14s (anti-personnel blast mine also known as the toe popper), M15s and M19s (anti-tank mines), M16s (bounding anti-personnel mine which copied the German ‘bouncing betty’), and M18s.
How Are Landmines Being Removed In Vietnam?
Vietnam faces a big challenge in removing the thousands upon thousands of active mines leftover from the war. There is a lot of local and overseas interest in investing in the country. However, the issue of landmines covering land that could be used for economic productivity is real.
With the help of agencies and other governments (including the American government), the Vietnamese government has made considerable efforts to remove the buried explosive devices.
Unfortunately, this task is even more difficult because landmines are buried and hidden on tropical terrain, which is difficult for deminers to manage.
Luckily, there is no shortage of humanitarian agencies that tackle the issue. On top of receiving funding to de-mine the valuable farmers’ lands, the organizations educate local communities about the dangers of the mines and help victims and families of mine explosions.
Thanks to organizations like PeaceTrees Vietnam and MAG, millions of hectares of land have been cleared, which can be used for various purposes (agriculture, development projects, schools, etc.).
What Was Agent Orange In Vietnam?
Explosives in the form of bombs and land mines were not the only weapons to have left traces long after the Vietnam War.
The second Indochina War is famous for the use of dreadful chemical weapons. Though various chemical weapons were used, agent orange is the most famous and controversial. Agent orange was originally used as a herbicide, but the American military weaponized it during the war.
The concentrations of agent orange that were sprayed during the war were significantly greater than the makers indicated was needed to kill plants. Consequently, so much land in Vietnam exposed to agent orange was completely degraded.
Is There Still Toxic Land In Vietnam?
Unfortunately, a significant amount of land remains contaminated today, and the chemical agent has affected multiple generations following the war. Research suggests that the chemical weapon has affected about three million Vietnamese.
To this day, children are still born with congenital disabilities that can be attributed to their relatives’ exposure to toxic chemicals during the war.
The Vietnamese government still classifies certain areas as toxic hot spots. As long as it remains toxic, the land in these areas cannot be used for agriculture, as it will affect people’s health.
Much like there are organizations focused on clearing the leftover mines across the country, considerable efforts are being made to decontaminate land that has been made infertile by chemical weapons.