Key village near Kabul to be mine free by the end of 2009
KABUL - A new housing development area for Afghan refugees near Kabul is being cleared of mines, with the urgency of the project becoming more acute as people are already living in the district and many more are continuing to arrive.
Like other mine-contaminated areas in Afghanistan the village of Barek Ab near Bagram in Parwan province, 20 kilometres north of Kabul, poses a real risk to returnees mainly coming from Iran and Pakistan as well internally displaced persons who have settled there.
The area is 450,000 square metres large and contaminated with mine and unexploded ordnance. The mine field is only a 100 yards away from the nearest residential houses and tents.
“Before we started our operation in 2008 there were five accidents involving humans and 15 animal casualties,” said Sayed Qasem, a de-miner from the Halo Trust. “Since our operation began, we have been able to prevent more incidents through our mine awareness projects and our de-mining operation in the area.”
In Afghanistan alone, an average of sixty Afghans are injured or killed by landmines or explosive remnants of war every month, making it one of the worst affected countries in the world.
According to the Ottawa Convention on landmines, Afghanistan must be completely cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance by 2013, and the Afghanistan Compact (launched in 2006) calls for 70 per cent of explosive-infested land to be cleared by 2011.
“Our main challenge at present, given the global financial crisis, is to ensure we raise sufficient funding to do that in as short a time as possible. We would like to try to achieve the goals in the Afghan Compact and we would like to be able assist the Government of Afghanistan as quickly as possible to achieve the requirements under the Ottawa treaty”, said Maxwell Kerley, the Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, while visiting Barek Ab.
In 2008 alone, more then 84,000 anti-personnel mines, 900 anti-tank mines and 2.5 million Explosive Remnants of War were destroyed by the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan. This resulted in the clearance of over 50 square kilometres of minefields and almost 113 square kilometres of former battle areas.
“All the mine action staff throughout Afghanistan should be proud of the achievements of the programme over the last year. However, the challenges ahead remain great and we call upon all stakeholders to commit to supporting us through to the completion of the task so that all Afghans can be free from the fear of mines and explosive remnants of war and the development of our country is not held back by the threat of mines,” said Dr Haider Reza, the Programme Director for the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan.
It’s expected the village of Barek Ab will be declared mine free by December 2009.
By Jamil Danish, UNAMA