By Maja Tuljkovic – Sarajevo
The International Day Against Mines is celebrated on 4 April all over the world, and this date is especially important for B&H, which has been facing for many years the problem of mines left over from the war. At the proposal of the UN, this day began to be marked in 1995, and for nine years in a row is marked with a central event in Visoko and B&H. The International Day Against Mines is marked with the message ‘One More Step Towards a Safe Environment, for the Development and Prosperity of B&H towards the EU’. It was organized by the Center for Mine Action B&H (BHMAC), Delegation of the EU to B&H, B&H Armed Forces and municipality Visoko.
Unfortunately, 19 years after the war B&H faces a very severe problem of mine contamination. The current mine suspected areas covers a surface of 1.215 square kilometers, or 2,4 percent of the total area of B&H, ranking B&H among one of the most vulnerable countries in the world regarding mines.
This is a serious problem, evidenced by the data from BHMAC, in which 1.725 citizens suffered from mines, of which 599 have been killed. In carrying out humanitarian demining actions, 114 deminers were affected, of which 46 were killed. In 2014, 11 citizens of B&H were affected, and out of this number 3 were killed.
BHMAC said that B&H has the material, technical and human resources for solving the mine problem in a strategic period by 2019, to which it is bound to with the ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of Mines (Ottawa Convention), but the biggest obstacle to solving this crisis is a financial one. During the period of implementation of the Strategy of the B&H Mine Action Center from 2009-2013, around 400 million BAM were necessary, but despite all the efforts, 200 million BAM were secured.
Also, the nonprofit organization ‘Landmine Survivors Initiative’, member of the international company to ban landmines (ICBL), reminded the public today that this year marks the 15 years since the entry into force of the Convention. B&H, thanks to the support of international donors in the last 15 years, made substantial progress in achieving the ultimate goal of becoming a mine-free country by 2019. However, securing funding for the cleaning of the remaining mines is primarily the responsibility of relevant B&H institutions, as provided with the state Strategy of mine activities from 2009-2019.
To accelerate mine action in the country, in 2013 BHMAC developed new methods of treating contaminated surfaces, which will be implemented within the framework of the pilot project ‘Land Release’ 2014, financed by the EU from IPA funds. With this method, it is anticipated that by the end of the calendar year, citizens will be returned around 70 square kilometers of contaminated surfaces in 23 municipalities in B&H.
Until this happens, citizens of B&H are advised to not enter marked minefields, and most importantly, to not remove the warning tags from the field. Besides this constituting a criminal offense, they and others are put into direct danger. This means that by removing the warning tags, it is as if citizens of B&H are setting up new minefields.