Demining for all

Photo: Ewan Arnolda

Photo: Ewan Arnolda

There’s clock ticking here right now, an apt bomb reference because the clock is counting down the days left until registration closes for the Minesweepers first international competition for humanitarian demining. The competition will take place in Egypt over the course of summer, ending in September. Competitors can construct a remote-controlled or autnomous demining robot. From the site:

Detection and removal of antipersonnel landmines is, at the present time, a serious problem of political, economical, environmental and humanitarian dimension in many countries over the world. If demining efforts remain about the same as they are now, and no new mines are laid, it will still take 1100 years to get rid of all the world’s active land mines.  The conventional methods which are currently used make the procedure of removing this great numbers of landmines very slow, inefficient, dangerous and costly.  Robotics systems can provide efficient, reliable, adaptive and cost effective solution for the problem of the landmines and UXOs contamination.

Anyone who knows a bot-building talent might want to pass the information along.

Actual baselines of existing landmine numbers are not easy to come by, since the numbers of mines laid aren’t always carefully tallied, and landmines going all the way back to WWII are still buried in various countries. These metal mines are easier to detect than the plastics and alloys of modern mines. Some humanitarian de-miners speak of the landmine issue in terms of land area to be cleared for productive use rather than mine numbers, which might be a more accurate representation of the scope of the issue.

Under the Ottawa Treaty (1997) – the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention – 161 countries have agreed to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of mines.  Thirty-four countries have not signed the treaty and one more has signed but did not ratify. The states that have not signed the treaty includes a majority of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, the United States and Russia. The United States is the sole non-signatory NATO member.

Many states have managed to clear mines and declare themselves ‘mine-free’. In the countries where demining is still in process, fields can go unplanted and even walking to school can be unsafe in mined areas. Or more dangerously, fields are planted anyway. Talking in terms of land-area would also convey the overall impact of landmines in a region, not just on humans, but on all creatures. How to graze animals in a region that has been mined? How do migratory birds and animals fare when they cross mined territory, or animals that cover a large territorial range on a regular basis?

De-mining is as much a conservation and environmental issue as it is a humanitarian issue.

Mine contamination as of October 2012Source: ICBL

Mine contamination as of October 2012
Source: ICBL

Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-Free World – First international Competition for Humanitarian Demining

International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) website

United Nations Factsheet

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