The intense flooding which has made headlines for its unprecedented devastation of homes and infrastructure throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina has also forced NPA to temporarily halt its landmine clearance operations in country.
The organisation’s clearance equipment, vehicles, and mine detection dogs have been evacuated from field operations bases to higher ground and are awaiting safer conditions for work. Meanwhile, although NPA personnel have themselves been seriously affected by the floods, the programme is in constant contact with local civil protection agencies as well as national mine clearance authorities to see how NPA resources can be redeployed or loaned out to support disaster response efforts.
NPA’s trucks, ambulance vehicles, and a front-end loader usually used in mine clearance have already been seconded, along with NPA operators, to civil protection forces to aid in emergency operations. All staff from the Posavina region have been seconded to civil protection in order to help build protective works and generally assist with relief efforts.
While it is theoretically possible for floodwaters and mudslides to displace landmines to other previously unsuspected areas, past experience with flooding in Bosnia and in other countries where NPA works has shown these effects to be minimal. Except in rare cases of minefields situated along riverbanks, mines seldom migrate more than a few meters from their original location.
NPA is coordinating with national mine clearance authorities and the organisation’s surveyors have adapted to the situation, braving difficult conditions to investigate possible mine migration in high-risk areas and, more importantly, to replace minefield warning signs which may have been washed away. In the meantime NPA believes it is important to refrain from speculation which can generate baseless fear and thereby hinder immediate relief efforts.
With over 100 employees, mine clearance machines, and its own breeding and training center for mine detection dogs, NPA is the biggest and most efficient mine clearance operator in Bosnia and has been at work there since 1996. NPA is committed to helping the country rid itself of mines and cluster munitions, both through its own survey and clearance activities as well as with capacity building and training initiatives for the Bosnian military’s demining battalion. When the waters recede, NPA will resume these critical and lifesaving operations.