|FSD Demining Operations in Darwaz, North Eastern Afghanistan
In September 2010 FSD commenced the first cross-border land release project between Tajikistan and Afghanistan initiating Humanitarian Mine Action operations in the less known Darwaz region of the Badahkshan Province in the North East Afghanistan.
The Landmine and ERW contamination in Darwaz originated during the conflict period of the Soviet occupation, to some extent afterwards during the Taliban ruled years and also during the Tajikistan Civil war period. This mountainous region that forms part of the little Pamirs, was sown with deadly air dropped and surface/ sub-surface laid anti-personnel land mines with ground battles taking place where small arms ammunition, artillery and mortar fire were used. It was subjected to areal bombings and the delivery of sub munitions (cluster bombs/munitions) on enemy positions and/ or their movements on routes. These affected areas are prime and essential agricultural land, which is most suitable for animal grazing, planting of crops, fresh water supply and passages (routes) to neighboring villages for social or trading purposes.
Prior to 2010, no humanitarian de-mining operations or any other humanitarian aid were ever initiated other than a small survey conducted during August 2007 by another NGO that could only map 6 “mined areas” (approx. 230,320m²) across only 4 locations during this 2-week deployment.
The complete infrastructure of this region, which includes medical services, education, social and economical/ commercial development is very poor and non-existent in the largest part if not nearly the whole region. Darwaz can be described as a disadvantaged, neglected region and community in all aspects because of the region’s location, topographical layout and severe and extreme weather conditions.
Until 2010, due to its remote situation, geographical position and the difficulties of access through Tajikistan, the Darwaz region had never been included in the Mine Action plan for Afghanistan and other humanitarian aid.
FSD Demining Operations
From the very beginning of the FSD Afghanistan demining and survey operations in Darwaz from 2011, it became apparent that the mines situation appears to have a high and direct impact on the communities with mine fields being found within a short distance of villages, blocking access to fresh water, hampering economic development by blocking key routes and denying the populace access to agricultural land and grazing pastures. FSD Afghanistan initiated Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) operations with two (2) Demining Teams in Darwaz after the training of locally recruited de miners in June 2011.
FSD is continuing with the demining operations and between June 2011 to 31 March 2013 have achieved the following results:
Battle Area Clearance (BAC) Square Meters: 14,697 m² Cleared
Minefield Clearance Square Meters: 183,166 m² Cleared
Battle Areas Cleared: 2
Minefields Cleared: 4
Anti Personnel (AP) landmines found and destroyed: 2,723
UXO’s found and destroyed: 75
SAA found and destroyed: 52
Since launching HMA operations, FSD established a unique opportunity within Afghanistan to provide real humanitarian and economic benefits to a remote, neglected and forgotten community who have so far remained impartial in the country’s conflict and who are largely warm to assistance from Western NGO’s and their presence in the area.
When FSD Afghanistan started operations in Darwaz, there were no other information available of more Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHA’s) in the region except for the six (6) previous mapped hazardous areas done in August 2007. However, as FSD established itself in the region and the local communities gained their trust and respect for FSD, information of SHA’s started to reach the FSD Afghanistan HQ. FSD then realized the need of obtaining more information on the SHA’s and during August 2011 a small fully equipped survey team was established and tasked to identify and confirm the existence of minefields not previous reported which directly affected and posing a threat to the communities of Darwaz.
From August 2011 to August 2012 the survey component identified, surveyed and confirmed the existence of 38 Hazardous Areas totaling 3,132,454 m² in addition to the 6 Hazardous Areas of the 2007 survey which totals to 230 320 m². All these surveyed areas are registered on the national mine action database.
Mine Risk Education: Due to the remoteness and only being accessible through Tajikistan, the Darwaz region have become over the years a humanitarian “neglected” hazardous affected area and ever since the existence of the landmine and ERW threat have been confirmed, the urgent need of education and training of the affected communities have been raised.
From early 2013 FSD Afghanistan established a Mine Risk Education (MRE) section to raise awareness amongst “at risk” communities in the Darwaz Region of the risk/dangers of unexploded landmines and ERW. The MRE operations is launched throughout Darwaz which educate, advise and encourage men, women and children to behave and act in such a way as to reduce the risk of the threat and enable themselves to secure their personal safety, safeguarding their property and the environment through the objectives of Prevention, Awareness Raising and Advocacy.
It also encourages the communities to assist and support FSD in their efforts with conducting mine clearance operations that reduces the threat of landmines and ERW. The cleared areas and access routes will ensure the provision of much needed and essential services such as medical care, education and the socio economical/ commercial development that was previously prevented by the existence of Hazardous Areas contaminated by landmines and ERW.