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Foreign military training ranges being cleared of mines: UN

Foreign military training ranges being cleared of mines: UN

Feb 04, 2016 - 12:46

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): As many as 138 casualties from explosive remnants of war (ERW) in or around NATOinfo-icon facilities in Afghanistaninfo-icon over the last six years, the United Nations said on Thursday.

From 2009 to December 2015, the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) recorded the casualties, including 42 fatal incidents. Of the 138 casualties, 75 percent were children.

A statement from UNMACA said on 10 April 2015, two brothers aged ten and eight found an ERW when they ventured onto a former ISAFinfo-icon high-explosive training range in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province.

Hailing from the Kochi (nomad) community of Afghanistan, the boys were tending animals. It exploded when handled, resulting in their tragic deaths, the press release added.

They were the only casualties in 2015 caused by ERW abandoned on the ISAF ranges. The positive impact of the clearance of unexploded ordnance such as mortar shells and grenades is evident in the declining casualty statistics.

In 2014, when clearance operations began, 19 casualties were reported from training ranges -- less than half of the 50 casualties reported in 2013 and the 46 casualties in 2012.

The clearance of unexploded ordnance is addressed under Protocol-V of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons ‐ 1981.

According to the UNMACA statement, the clear programme is carried out through the coordination and quality management of the Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC). The ranges were used by foreign troops to improve coalition force skills for different types of weaponry.

So far, the project has cleared 501 square kilometers with 610.4 square kilometers remaining. Over 93,000 UXOs and 68,438 Small Arm Ammunitions (SAA) explosives have been removed.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. While similar test range clearance operations have been conducted in other countries such as Libya and Iraq, none have been on the scale of the ongoing effort in Afghanistan.

In 2009 and 2010, a growing number of casualties were being identified as originating from the high explosive training ranges that were a part of most international military bases in Afghanistan.

Following the reports of civilian casualties from these ranges, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the UNMACA and DMAC lobbied ISAF to take responsibility for this hazard.

Responding positively, in December 2013, the US Army Corps of Engineers signed a contract with an American company for clearance of 84 firing ranges that had been used by the American military.

Funding support is provided by the US and the UK for the ranges used by their forces. Other coalition forces including Germany, Spain, Lithuania, Sweden and New Zealand have all indicated their preparedness to arrange for the clearance of their ranges.

The project has conducted an extensive campaign to educate communities about the risk of mines and UXO on the ranges. As of December 31, 2015, over 744,000 civilians living near the ranges received information about the UXO threat.

Minister of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs Wais Ahmad Barmak says: “Beside all other demining operations in Afghanistan, clearance of ERW from the former High Explosives Training Ranges (HETR) helps save civilians’ lives.”

“NATO’s troop contributing nations are commended for their commitment to make the ranges they used safe and available for productive use. The government and people remain committed, with the help of the international community, to continue to work towards the goal of a mine‐free and ERW‐free Afghanistan by 2023.”


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