Vietnam, US agencies to produce documentary on Agent Orange remediation

By Minh Nga   March 26, 2023 | 08:32 pm PT
Vietnam, US agencies to produce documentary on Agent Orange remediation
An expert t Bien Hoa airport in southern Vietnam where soil contaminated with dioxin is cleaned, January 2021. Photo by VnExpress/An Nhon
The U.S. Institute of Peace is looking for Vietnamese filmmakers to lead the production of a documentary film on Agent Orange clean-up and its impacts on the community.

The 40-45-minute film would feature the ongoing cleanup at Bien Hoa Airport in southern Vietnam, and its production would be joined by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Vietnam’s Office 701, short for the National Steering Committee on the Settlement of Post-war Unexploded Ordnance and Toxic Chemical Consequences, it said.

The airport was a base for the U.S. army during the war, and used to store herbicides. Experts said the airport area is the most heavily dioxin-contaminated region in the world.

A dioxin removal project for the airport, conducted by USAID and Vietnam's Ministry of National Defense, is expected to be completed in 10 years, with the first phase, in which 150,000 m3 of soil will be collected by 2025, expected to cost $390 million.

Between 1961 and 1971 the U.S. military sprayed some 80 million liters of Agent Orange, a compound of dioxins and dioxin-like mixtures, over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) in southern Vietnam.

Dioxin stays in the soil and at the bottom of water bodies for generations, entering the food chain through meat, fish and other animals. It has been found at alarmingly high levels in human breast milk.

Between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese were estimated to be directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals by the time the war ended in April 1975.

These chemicals have been linked to cancers, birth defects and many chronic diseases.

Since 2004, Vietnamese afflicted with Agent Orange have filed numerous lawsuits against 37 chemical firms in the U.S., most notably Monsanto and Dow Chemical. But their efforts have been in vain, with all petitions dismissed by the U.S. Federal Court on the grounds of "not having enough evidence."

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2018 issued an official statement for the first time saying that the agrochemical and biotech firm Monsanto had to be responsible for the suffering of many Vietnamese and their descendants who were exposed to Agent Orange, which was developed by the firm.

USIP said the documentary film aims to share personal stories on the impacts of Agent Orange and changes brought by the U.S and Vietnam’s cooperation in cleaning it up.

The deadline for application from filmmakers is April 22, and the production is scheduled to start in May and take 14 months, the institute said.

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