Community based demining progresses

15 May 2009

Community based demining progresses

KABUL - Demining in the south and east of Afghanistan is taking on a new shape this year as different communities take on the task of demining their own districts.

In October 2008 a community based demining project, which will last until May 2010, started in Kunar. The total area that needs to be cleared of mines and unexploded ordinance is more than 700,000 square metres; so far 25 per cent of this has been cleared. 21 anti-personnel mines and 2,283 explosive remnants of war have been destroyed. In addition, Mine Risk Education has been conducted in 36 villages, reaching 3,448 women and 4,270 men.

Community based demining employs local people to carry out the operations rather than bringing in teams from outside the province to demine an area.

“This job has really improved my life. Before, I was unemployed and travelling long distances looking for work to earn money to support my family. But now I am working close to my home village, I can earn money and go back to my family at night. I am happy that with my work as a deminer, I can support my family and now I feel hopeful that my children’s future life will be bight,” said Ahmad, a deminer from Kunar (not his real name to protect his identity).

Further south in Lashkargah in Helmand province, a similar project is running until July 2010. 16 per cent of an area of three square kilometres area of land has so far been cleared. 54 anti-personnel mines and more than 2,000 explosive remnants of war have been cleared.

“The mines and explosive remnants have created lots of problems for our village. We can’t use much of our land for tending our livestock, collecting firewood, stones for construction of houses as we are worried it is contaminated. This has a big impact on our daily lives,” said one village elder, not named to protect his identity.

One of the key elements of community based demining is that it provides much needed employment to people in outlying villages.

“The people of our village are poor and there are not many opportunities for work or business, so this is a golden opportunity for them to work for this country and earn money as well. In the last 30 years there has been civil war in our country, due to this war millions of people have been injured and killed and many fled to Pakistan and Iran. The economic situation of the country was destroyed. Now we do not want to live like this anymore - we want permanent peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Arzo, a deminer’s wife.

In Uruzgan it is expected that more than 142,000 square metres of contaminated land will be cleared by the end of 2009. Seven anti-personnel mines and more than 1,100 explosive remnants have been discovered.

The UN Secretary-General’s March report on Afghanistan to the Security Council noted: “The launching of community-based demining projects in Helmand, Kunar and Uruzgan has been particularly noteworthy. These activities, targeted at marginalized communities with limited infrastructure or support, are aimed at bringing direct socio-economic and stability dividends into areas in the south and east of the country. The impact of previously completed demining activities along the route of electricity transmission lines from Uzbekistan contributed to the significant increase in power supply to Kabul in February 2009.”

The community based demining projects are an initiative of the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan. MACCA, supported by the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations, provides coordination, including planning, management and quality assurance for the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, encompassing all mine action activities throughout the country.

Website: Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan