A team of Czech experts are currently in Vietnam to plan one of the biggest clean-up operations in the Southeast Asian country’s history. The Czech Development Agency has been awarded millions of crowns by the government to decontaminate some of the areas worst polluted by the highly toxic herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Michal Procházka is from the development agency and overseeing the clean-up. I spoke to him earlier today and asked first about the sort of problems Agent Orange was causing in the north of the country where the Czech team was based:
“There are two aspects I would say – the first is the old environmental burden in and around the army airports and connected areas. The other part of the problem is broader, of course, and connected especially with social and healthcare issues. This Agent Orange influences the lives of the inhabitants of these areas. It causes quite serious health problems spanning many generations. And at the same time it restricts the social and also economic activities of the inhabitants of these areas.”
How is your team then going to decontaminate these Agent Orange hotspots?
“Well actually it is not Czech Development Agency staff who are going to work in the regions – the role of the agency is to negotiate with partner institutions in Vietnam, both at a central and local level, about the necessary steps to improve the quality of life of people living in these areas. And that is precisely the work going on right now.”
And is it fair to say that this is amongst the first clean-up operations to take place in this region?
“Yes exactly – in fact there is a history of negotiation, through the so-called Country Strategy Programme. The Czech Republic and Vietnam formulated this back in 2006. This Agent Orange clean-up was negotiated as one of the priorities of the environmental side of this programme, and yes, we are quite aware that apart from the Americans and the Canadians, we are the first donors really engaged in this activity.”
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