Implementing partner Champassak province
The Government of Belgium provides military advisors as an in-kind contribution.
Supporting the UXO Programme in Champassak province, the EOD specialists are technical advisors
and have been training
teams and supporting provincial co-ordination. The focus of work is clearing
schoolyards and land for more agricultural activities in the province.
The southern province of Champassak , adjacent to both Thailand and Cambodia , is divided by the southern most stretches of the Mekong River in Laos . The Boloven Plateau in the north-east of the province rises to 1,716 metres, and has a cool climate as a result. The plateau overlooked the south-eastern section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and as such was considered of strategic importance during the conflict. Intensive ground battles, as well as the aerial bombing, have left a wide range of ordnance, which includes unexploded mortars, bomblets and big bombs in the upland areas, grazing lands and forests.
The majority of the UXO contamination in Champassak is around villages along the main roads and those areas that have easy access to the provincial capital Pakse.
Paksong is the focal point for development in Champassak province, and the presence of UXO severely hampers it reaching its potential. Development priorities include: rice production (both wet and dry season); cash crops; reforestation; livestock breeding; irrigation; and hydropower.
With a population of 500,994 (1995 census) Champassak is the third most populous province in the country. Most people are Lao Loum, with a few ethnic minorities in the more remote areas to the south and west. Economic activity centres on rice production, both in lowland and highland areas, cash crop production, livestock breeding, fishing and forestry. The Bolovans Plateau is well known for its commerical agriculture, in particular coffee production, as well as pineapples and durians. Champassak attracts foreign investment, due to its proximity to Thailand . Tourism is growing rapidly with a number of natural and historic tourist sites scattered throughout the province.
Champassak is the sixth most severely contaminated province in the Lao PDR. Paksong and Bachiang districts are severely contaminated, while other districts are moderately contaminated. During the war much ground fighting and bombing occurred in Paksong, and neighbouring Bachiang, district. Mined areas surround many of the defensive positions on the Bolovans. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Khmer Rouge made incursions from Cambodia and laid mines in the forested areas near the Cambodian border.
UXO LAO commenced working in Champassak in early 1997. Since then, teams have cleared 274 hectares of land and have disposed of more than 48,000 items of UXO. Community Awareness Teams have visited 635 villages, reaching more than 121,280 people.
Technical advice was initially provided by one French technical advisor, from 1997-8. From early 1998 teams of four Belgium military technical advisors have provided support. This arrangement is ongoing.
Area clearance operations will seek to clear land for the poorest families. In line with UXO Lao ‘ s overall mandate and priorities, clearance will provide safe land for agriculture and irrigation projects, new schools and villages, clean water and the other development projects.
The UXO Lao workplan calls for teams to work in 4 districts, complete 40 tasks that are estimated to benefit over 27,000 people and clear over 71 hectares of land.
Roving Teams will visit 184 villages in Sanasomboun, Bachiang, Paksong, Pathoomphone, Phonthong, Champassak, Sukuma and Moonlapamok districts. These are loose estimates based on survey data developed on the basis of information received from villagers.
The teams will continue with their on-going programme of village visits. In 2004, they intend to visit 105 villages and bring UXO avoidance and risk education messages to 64,131 people. To expand the reach and ensure the sustainability of the programme they will seek to train village volunteers, mostly in remote, high UXO impact areas of the province.
The survey teams working in the province will visit 184 villages in the following districts: Sanasomboon, Bachiang, Paksong, Pathoomphone, Phonthong, Champassack, Sukuma and Moonlapamok. These village visits are tasked both from the annual work planning process, and are officially requested by district and village level authorities, and also as a result of requests that come directly from the community for roving team assistance. This last is often received by UXO Lao as a result of information gathered by the Community Awareness teams in the course of their village visits.