News 04 Apr 17

Bosnia ‘Failing to Meet Landmine Removal Target’

Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be landmine-free by 2019 as previously promised because of a lack of funds, campaigners warned on International Mine Awareness Day.

Igor Spaic
BIRN
Sarajevo
A minefield warning sign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: Adrian Monk/Wikipedia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is marking International Mine Awareness Day on Tuesday with a demining presentation outside parliament in Sarajevo, but the country will fail to meet its target of being landmine-free by 2019, campaigners warned.

“This, sadly, will not happen,” Gordana Sekaric, operational manager at UDAS, an organisation representing amputees from the country’s Republika Srpska entity, told BIRN.

The target was set in Bosnia’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-2019, published by the Council of Ministers in 2008.

But Sekaric said that a four-year delay could be expected due to a lack of funds.

Sekaric told BIRN that of the 660 million Bosnian marks (aroound 338 million euros) that had been planned for demining between 2009 and 2016, only about half the amount, around 330 million marks (169 million euros), was actually spent on tackling the problem.

“[The government] should do more to implement the obligations arising from Bosnia’s Mine Action Strategy 2009-2019, which is sadly still not being implemented properly - allegedly due to a lack of funds,” Sekaric said.

According to Bosnia’s Mine Action Centre, there are still more than 80,000 landmines left over from the war of the country.

More than 1,000 square kilometres of possibly hazardous territory remain uncleared - 2.2 per cent of the country in total.

The problem is present in 129 of the country’s 143 municipalities, and the most dangerous areas are around Doboj, Teslic, Maglaj, Usora, Zavidovici, Gornji Vakuf, Sanski Most, Velika Kladusa, Travnik and Ilijas.

Since 1996, more than 3,000 square kilometres have been cleared.

However, more than 1,750 people were victims of landmine incidents - including at least 612 fatalities - during this period.

On Mine Awareness Day, people in Sarajevo will be able to watch a demining presentation in front of the parliament building, organized by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the UN Development Programme and a number of other local and international organisations.

There will be a meeting between government officials and people outside government who are involved with the issue.

But Sekaric said that the issue needs more attention the while year round.

“Sadly, we only talk about the problem of landmines when an incident occurs and on April 4,” she said.

“This is not enough, because as much as this problem affects the security of the people living in the most affected communities, it also affects development, the economy and tourism,” she added.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is reported to be one of the countries with the most uncleared landmines on its territory.

The problem is so serious that in 2016, a local NGO warned Pokemon GO players to avoid wandering into potentially dangerous areas.

Neighbouring Croatia also has a problem with landmines left over from the 1990s conflict.

There are still some 446 square kilometres of potentially dangerous territory in the country, where around 43,000 landmines are potentially located.

Since the end of the war in Croatia in late 1995, 200 people have been killed by landmines - including both civilians and deminers - and 385 wounded, according to the Croatian Mine Action Centre, the state institution responsible for demining.

According to the Ottawa Agreement, signed by Croatia, the country will be landmine-free by 2019.

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