The U.S. should clean up from a former military base Thursday Vietnamese, now included in Danang airport, in the center of the country, which served as a storage place for the Agent Orange, a powerful defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Defense and the United States plans to extract 73,000 cubic meters of earth from the airport and be heated to a high temperature until the dioxin present in it disappears. The deal, expected to last four years, will take place 37 years after the end of the Vietnam War in April 1975.
"Better late than never," said Vo Duoc, a resident of Danang whose family is suffering from diseases linked to Agent Orange. "We need them to do as much as possible and as quickly as possible".
A few days ago, Vo Duoc received the results of medical tests revealing that twelve members of his family, including himself, have high levels of dioxin in the blood.
Duoc Vo, 58, has diabetes. His wife suffers from breast cancer and their daughter was unable to have children after several miscarriages. For years, Vo Duoc believed that their misfortunes had no link, but after the test results, he thinks now that his family had unwittingly ingested the dioxin found in fish, vegetables and water contaminated by Agent Orange.
The U.S. military has poured about 75 million liters of Agent Orange and other herbicides over a quarter of the former South Vietnam, between 1962 and 1971. The defoliant decimated about two million hectares of forest and 202,000 hectares of crops.
Dioxin, a chemical linked to cancer and birth defects in particular, has seeped into the soil and water, where it can remain for generations.
This legacy of the war weighs between former enemies. Hanoi says that between 3 and 4 million Vietnamese were affected by chemicals dispersed by American planes during the war to destroy the vegetative cover to protect fighters in the jungle.
Washington disputes the figure of Vietnam, considering it too high, and ensures that other environmental factors are responsible for health problems.
The American perspective irritates the Vietnamese, who accuse the United States to hold a double standard. Americans have indeed distributed billions of dollars to U.S. soldiers who have developed illnesses related to dioxin, after being exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
In 2004, a group of Vietnamese citizens had complained to the United States against companies producing Agent Orange, but the case had resulted in a dismissal.
The clearance operation has a cost of $ 43 million (34.8 million).
Past five years, Congress has allocated approximately $ 49 million (39.7 million) for clearance and approximately $ 11 million (8.9 million) to assist the disabled in Vietnam, whatever the cause.
Experts have identified three former U.S. air base at Danang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat (south) as preparation areas, storage and shipment of Agent Orange.
The task dialog US-Vietnam on Agent Orange and dioxin, which brings together scientists and former officials of the countries, 450 million (350 million) are needed to clean the main sites, provide assistance to people with disabilities and repair damaged landscapes, over the next five years.