Overview of the Problem
Landmines are explosive devices that are designed to maim or kill the victim. Made from plastic, metal, and explosives, they can be mass produced very easily costing as little as $1 per mine but can cause on average $1000 to remove. Throughout the years, landmines have caused widespread humanitarian problems worldwide. They lie dormant as remnants of war on or in the ground for many years after their intended use. Since they are activated simply by pressure or proximity, they are indiscriminate killing soldiers and civilians alike. The blast can cause injuries such as blindness, burns, destroyed limbs, and shrapnel wounds often killing the victim due to blood loss. Areas that are contaminated or even suspected to be contaminated with landmines are often closed off to civilians leaving valuable resources such as water and arable land are inaccessible. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates that 15,000-20,000 people are maimed or killed by landmines each year and that millions more suffer from the agricultural, economic, and psychological impact of the weapon.
Landmines are everywhere. According to Landmine Monitor, the fields of over 75 countries all over the world are infected with landmines as a result of war. There are tens of millions of landmines still active in the ground today. The map below shows that the majority of landmines are located in Africa and Asia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country that has been plagued with a 43 month long civial war between three main ethnic groups: Bosniaks, who are mainly Muslim; Serbs, who are Orthodox Christian; and Croats, who strongly identify with the Roman Catholic Church (48% Bosniak, 37% Serb, 14% Croat). After the signing of several treaties including the Dayton Peace Accords in November 1995 and the EU Stabilization and Association Agreement in 2007, Bosnia became an electoral democracy governed by a prime minister and a three council presidency, one from each ethnic group.
Currently in Bosnia, there are over 3 million active landmines. They pose direct threats to all forms of infrastructure and development of the economy, from the immediate provision of services to communication systems to the potential for tourism. Identifying the locations of these landmines have been very complicated and costly as the majority are undocumented or their records have been lost. It has been estimate that mines contaminate 1,735 square kilometers or 3.35 percent of the land of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are 1,631 identified communities impacted by mines and/or unexploded ordnance. These communities consist of more than 900,000 men, women, and children.
In 2009, the Portfolio of Mine Action projects set off to rid the countries of its landmine threat by the year 2019. This includes mine clearance, the strengthening of national institutions over the long term, and mass mine risk education. The portfolio team's funding appeal for mine action projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2009 totals US $3,487,166.
Metal detectors are a way to detect mines manually. Metal detectors rely on magnetic fields to examine deep in the ground for metal. It is a cheap way to search for landmines; however, it has a high false positive rate. For every one mine discovered, at least one thousand other 'false alarms'. Also there are many landmines that are only made of plastic and cannot be traced by metal detectors.
Many dogs have been trained to trace the scent of TNT and can often find chemical explosives located in the ground. However, this technique endangers the life of the animal.
Mine Removal Machinery
Mine removal equipment includes mine flails, mine rollers, and mine plows. These are all large devices that are attached to tanks that deliberately explode landmines to clear a lane. This method for landmine removal is very costly because it requires the purchase of large machinery and only has a success rate of about 50% to 60%. Also large modified bulldozers are being used in various countries to clear minefields; however, this has demonstrated to be a slow process.
- The International Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates that 15,000-20,000 people are maimed or killed by landmines each year.
- UNICEF estimates that 30-40% of mine victims are children under 15 years old.
- Over 110 million landmines of various types - plus millions more unexploded bombs, shells and grenades - remain hidden around in the ground in 78 countries.
- Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia have suffered 85% of the world's landmine casualties.
- Overall, African children live on the most mine-plagued continent, with an estimated 37 million mines embedded in the soil of at least 19 countries.
- April 4th is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.