UN resumes full de-mining activities in Afghanistan

17 July 2003

Thanks to a new technology, all de-mining work has resumed along the Kabul to Kandahar road, one of Afghanistan’s most important routes for commerce and relief aid, and is proceeding at a fast pace after a nearly two-month long suspension following a rash of attacks, the United Nations said today.

After de-miners along the road came under rocket attacks and ambushes, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and local authorities suspended activities along sections of the highway as well as in other southern areas in order to reinforce security measures. There are about 8,000 de-miners in Afghanistan.

The new technology, called the Mechanical Explosive Dog Detection System (MEDDS), means that instead of taking the mine dogs to the minefield, samples from the contaminated area are brought to the dogs who work in a laboratory, UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told a briefing in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Using a vapour suction method, samples are collected from the surface of the ground and sent to a laboratory in Kabul where the mine dogs are working. Each area from where they take the samples is carefully marked using the Global Positioning System (GPS) so they know exactly where each sample is from.

The dogs can detect vapour and particles from landmines and unexploded ordinance by sniffing the samples. When the dogs detect nothing the de-mining teams know they do not need to clear those areas. It reduces the amount of manual de-mining which has to be done. Teams with dogs do go back to manually de-mine the areas which are shown to be contaminated.

Since the work started on 1 July, the teams have completed 100 kilometres of the flanks of the road. They are covering five kilometres a day. Manual demining can clear around one square kilometre per day.

The UN Mine Action Centre (UNMACA) has also decided to resume de-mining in the southeast and southern regions. Work resumed on 12 July as a result of additional security measures that have been put in place by the local authorities.

De-mining was suspended in 10 provinces in the southwest and southeast of Afghanistan on 22 May. The provinces affected were: Paktika, Paktya, Khost, Gardez, Kandahar, except Kandahar city and the surroundings of that city; Zabul, Helmand, Nimroz, Uruzgan and the southern part of Ghazni.