Bosnia and Herzegovina

Drones in Humanitarian Action Case Study No.4: Deploying Drones for Spatial Modeling of Displaced Landmines in Bosnia Herzegovina

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Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Heavy floods and landslides in Bosnia Herzegovina shifted minefields and explosive remnants of war (ERW) into inhabited areas. The Belgian Royal Military Academy (RMA) team worked with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre (BHMAC) to use drone images that would help model the potential locations of some of the many displaced ERWs and mines. These models then were used to narrow down the search radius for demining teams.

Background

In May 2014, the worst flooding in the Balkans in 120 years of recorded weather measurements caused extensive damage and triggered landslides. In Bosnia and Herzegovina an estimated 1.5 million people—close to 40 per cent of the population—were affected. As a result, the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina activated the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism in order to request support for the response to the flooding. Moreover, the floods and landslides caused major displacements of ERWs. Some of these mines were moved by as much as 23 kilometres. When the floodwaters subsided and villagers returned to their homes, most were unaware of this imminent danger. The government sought assistance in identifying as well as clearing displaced mines.

As a result of the wars in the early 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the most serious landmine problems in the world. More than 5 000 people were killed or injured by landmines or unexploded munitions between 1992 and 2008. By 2013, landmines and unexploded munitions remained scattered in 28 699 locations across the country. Before the floods, approximately 540 000 citizens (of a total population of about 4 million) were living near these locations. Given that the displaced mines were likely to have spread over very large areas, ground searches would have taken too long, and the RMA team sought to reduce the search area by carrying out an initial analysis using up-to-date, high-resolution imagery.