Landmines remain a threat in BiH

19/02/2014

The EU and BiH are working together to remove landmines, but the progress is slow, dangerous and costly.

By Ana Lovakovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 19/02/14

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Since 1995, 46 mine removal technicians have been killed in the demining process. [AFP]

Twenty years after the conflicts in the region, landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remain one of the largest security issues, and the EU is helping the country take action.

Landmines left over from the conflict in BiH have injured more than 1,200 people and killed 600.

Since the beginning of this year, accidents caused by mines resulted in the deaths of at least three people.

On January 4th in Karanovac, 10-year-old Sejdo Šiko was killed and his father, Selmir Šiko, was badly wounded.

Sejdo, who was looking for iron with his father and uncle, wandered into an unmarked minefield that was located on the line that separated the warring factions from 1992 to 1995.

Many residents in the rural areas of BiH accidentally enter mined areas in search of wood, scrap metal and other materials that can be sold to earn money.

"The human cost is precisely why the EU has consistently invested in demining actions in BiH. Since 1996, 55 EU funded projects have been implemented in BiH, worth almost 39 million euros," Andy McGuffie, spokesman for the EU Special Representative in BiH, told SETimes.

According to the BiH Mine Action Centre, about 1,218 square kilometres, or 2.4 percent of the country's territory, is covered in landmines. It is estimated that about 120,000 mines and unexploded ordnance remain.

Goran Ždrale, a senior analyst at the BiH Mine Action Centre, said that much has been done. In 1998, 8 percent of the country was under the threat of mines. In the past 20 years, more than 3,000 kilometres have been cleared of about 65,000 mines.

But the project is slow, dangerous and costly. In 2013, just 11 square kilometres were cleared of mines. Since 1995, 46 mine removal technicians have been killed in the process.

"To close the national strategy on mine removal by 2019, we need 300 million euros," Ždrale told SETimes.

The EU is committed to assisting BiH in eliminating these threats and providing significant financial support to mine removal.

"Clearly more needs to be done in order to meet the goal of clearing the country of mines by 2019. The EC Progress Report 2013 for Bosnia and Herzegovina sets out needed actions," McGuffie said.

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The report said "the implementation of the Mine Action Strategy is behind schedule. Only half of the demining targets set for the last three years have been met. The law on anti-mine actions still needs to be adopted. To meet the goal of clearing the country of mines by 2019, fundraising responsibilities, administrative and management capacity and co-ordination of demining measures need to be addressed."

Radosav Zivkovic, a landmine victim who works at the NGO Stop Mines, said BiH should seek an extension of the deadline.

"If we continue on this dynamic, mine removal will take until 2024. The lack of minefield records and money for demining could cost more lives. The problem is that we have a new generation who does not pay attention to the signs. The bad economic situation is forcing people to collect firewood and metal, and those who are aware of the danger ignore it because they have to provide for their family's survival," Zivkovic told SETimes.

What steps should BiH take to speed up the landmine removal process? Tell us what you think below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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