In 1984, Ahangaran and Gamandy villages of Salang district became contaminated with anti-personnel mines, which killed and maimed scores of people in the area. Villagers still remember the deaths of a 35 year old man and an elderly woman, and a serious injury suffered by a 30 year old man.
After Russian forces pulled out from Afghanistan, demining NGOs began work all over Afghanistan to clear areas from the threat of mines.
A short interview with some of the villagers indicated the multiple benefits of mine clearance. “Mines and other explosives had created many problems for us. For example, we were not able to make use of the beautiful nature, and also we were not able to collect almonds from the trees which provided a good income for us when sold in local bazaars. It was hard for us to bring stones from the nearby mountain to build houses,” said Wasiqullah a resident of Ahangaran village, Salang district.
He added,” During winter time we faced a lot of problems since the mountains and forests were contaminated with mines and other explosives, so it was impossible for us to go there and collect firewood for winter fuel.”
Mohammad Ilyas, another resident from Gamandy village of Salang district said,” Now we are very happy that there are no mines in the area, and we are thankful that our villagers came together and requested Mine Action to clear this area from mines and other explosives. They finally came and cleared the area from these hidden enemies to humans. We appreciate mine action activities from the bottom of our heart.”
He added,” Mine action really did a very hard job and it is a real service for people and even for animals. Before clearance, the area had lots of problems because of mines and explosives in the area; we were not able to send our children to schools. Many people lost their lives because of mines.”
The impact of mine clearance in these villages is clearly significant. Children can now attend school without fearful journeys to the schoolhouse. Villagers can now use the cleared land for grazing, and safely take their herds to nearby pastures that had previously been mined. This will improve their self-sufficiency, along with the local economy, and prevent scores of deadly accidents.