See national operations
Clearing land of bombs, landmines and other unexploded ordnance
(called UXO) is what UXO Lao does. We employ over 600 deminers,
working in 31 districts across the country. These teams work in two ways:
1. Removing surface UXO: Roving clearance teams visit villages to remove
UXO on the ground, usually reported by UXO LAO survey and awareness teams.
Over a quarter of all villages in Laos are contaminated, and this is
therefore a ‘risk-reduction’ activity as any sub-surface (below ground)
UXO will remain.
2. Removing sub-surface UXO: Area clearance teams systematically clear
sub-surface (below-ground) UXO to provide safe land for productive use.
This is much slower than roving clearance tasks but is a ‘risk-removal’
activity. The teams use metal detectors, and then carefully use investigate
and brush away the earth to determine what the metal is. Sometimes it will
be a harmless metal fragment, but sometimes will be a live munition;
there’s no way to tell so each reading must be investigated.
Clearance can be time-consuming and therefore costly. Deciding priority
areas for clearance is essential to ensure best-targeted development and
benefits. Schools, clinics, markets and other public spaces are cleared,
along with land for agriculture and development projects.
In our work-planning process, we extensively consult with communities
and local authorities to determine where clearance is highest priority
and can deliver most benefit.
In Lao PDR there are many geographic and
field conditions that hinder progress:
- The vast majority of the road network is unsealed and suffers
major damage during the wet season. This means villages are inaccessible,
limiting the amount of work that can be carried out.
- Some of the heaviest contamination is in the most remote and
mountainous districts in the country and there are often no roads.
This requires teams walk to villages; other areas are accessible
only by boat.
- The ethnic diversity of the Lao PDR presents many challenges;
one example is that many villages speak languages other than Lao.
Common ordnance and munitions
Bombies: is the Lao name for anti-personnel bomb live units (BLU’s).
Most accidents in Laos are caused by bombies; unlike landmines,
these are designed to kill rather than injure. According to the 1997
National Survey, bombies are 37% of the contamination. Pictured at right are a pile
of BLU (bomb live unit) 24s.
Mortars are 16% of contamination and are shown to the left.
Projectiles are 11%, rockets are 6%, big bombs
(from 250-lb to1000-lb) are 23%. Landmines only make up 4% of the
Safety is maintained through comprehensive, quality training. Teams
are supervised in the field, to increase skills and ensure that safety
routines are followed.
Increased productivity whilst maintaining safety has been achieved
through the introduction of different types of metal detectors and
improved methods of vegetation clearance. Clearance is faster if the
threat of mines can be excluded. The detectors find metal fragments
as well as UXO. In areas of heavy metal contamination progress is slow.
Introducing large loop detectors has substantially increased productivity,
particularly in open areas with low ground vegetation and low metal
The design and effective implementation of a workplan that reflects the priority
needs of affected communities, remains the primary vehicle for UXO LAO Programme
development and capacity building.
How do we determine clearance priorities?
Roving clearance teams