Landmines and explosive remnants of war in Ukraine will take decades to clear

Landmines and explosive remnants of war in Ukraine will take decades to clear

Steve Brown writes:

In his Dec. 8 address to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Michael Tirre, the Europe Program Manager for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal, said: “The humanitarian impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance was already severe in eastern Ukraine following the 2014 invasions and, tragically, this has been magnified exponentially by Russia’s [2022] full-scale invasion.”

Tirre estimated that the area of Ukraine severely impacted by ERW was at least 160,000 square kilometers, an area the size of the United Kingdom; as the war continues, that figure increases daily. Until detailed surveys can be undertaken these estimates will remain simply that although, previous experience shows, that initial estimates can over-estimate the levels of contamination.

James Cowan, the CEO of the UK’s demining charity the HALO Trust, said in a February interview with the Canadian Journal Newswire, that the immensity of the affected territory, would require unprecedented funding and collaboration between donors, state and international demining organizations. His view, an echo of the situation at the end of World War II, is that it can only be “resolved by the creation of a ‘Marshall plan for landmines’, as a clear call to action for the international community.”

His view is supported by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which reported that the GLOBAL landmine clearance effort, measured against 35 active demining programs, had each year only managed to declare, on average, less than 1,500 square kilometers of “suspect” land as being clear and, within that figure, the actual area of landmines being removed was as low as 200 square kilometers. So, if the actual contaminated area in Ukraine is reduced by survey to half, about 80,000 square kilometers it would still take more than 50 years to clear the problem and then only if the equivalent of ALL of the clearance resources currently assigned to mine clearance globally were diverted to Ukraine. [Continue reading…]

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