JOHANNESBURG, 6 March (IRIN) - The
scourge of landmines laid during Mozambique's 16-year civil war could pose
a new threat to returning villagers when the flood waters subside, leaving
many of the deadly weapons exposed, unstable or swept to new areas.
Demining specialists in Mozambique told IRIN they feared that the hidden devices would make rehabilitation that much harder, and complicate the campaign to rid the country of landmines.
"We did not know for sure where the landmines were located before the floods started. Now we know even less after the mines were displaced by the floods," Jakob Kaarsbo of the UN's demining team in Mozambique told IRIN on Monday.
Kaarsbo said demining activities have been put on hold because of the difficulty of access caused by flooding. Reconnaissance and surveys will have to be started afresh and maps redrawn once the floodwaters had subsided, he said. Nevertheless, the mine awareness campaign in Mozambique would continue.
Kaarsbo's remarks were made as the country weighed the massive reconstruction effort that will be required to repair damaged roads, railway lines, bridges, schools and other infrastructure.
Chissano estimates a multi-million package
President Joachim Chissano announced that at least US $250 million will be needed to repair infrastructure in a country where the floods have also left more than a million people homeless, destroyed 10,000 hectares of planted fields, and claimed an estimated 30,000 head of cattle.
Rui Fonseca, chairman of the state-owned Mozambican Ports and Railway Company (CFM), told IRIN the parastatal is losing an estimated US $50,000 a day due to floods which have paralysed the rail system in the southern parts of the country. Fonseca added that CFM has so far lost US $4.5 million in revenue since the start of the rains in February.
"CFM will need about US $7 million to repair the damage to the rail system," Fonseca said. He added that the worst damaged line is the Limpopo line that links the country's capital, Maputo to Zimbabwe.
Fonseca said about 4km of the line was submerged, while a further 4km was hanging precariously over huge gullies. "We expect the line to be operational in a month," Fonseca said. The Ressano Garcia line, linking Maputo to South Africa was reopened last Wednesday after the waters started receding, added Fonseca.
Fonseca said, however, that the current repairs are being undertaken under an emergency plan, and that more substantial rehabilitation would cost much more. "Under normal circumstances, repairing a kilometre of track costs between US $300,000 and US $400,000."
International lending agencies decline to cancel debt
Meanwhile, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, whom Mozambique owes at least US $8.3 billion have said they will not cancel the country's debt.
The IMF is, however, reportedly considering an emergency support credit to Mozambique and will accelerate the country's access to the approved funds totalling US $17.5 million for the roads and coastal shipping project.
A World Bank official in Maputo, told IRIN on Monday that the Bank has also offered a helping hand: "The Bank has decided to suspend Mozambique's debt service for one year while the country tries to recover from the disaster."
Jubilee 2000, the debt cancellation group, argues that Mozambique pays about US $73 million a year on debt servicing. This, said Jubilee 2000, compares to the country's budget of US $20 million for primary health care and US $32 million for primary education.
Some bilateral creditors, however, have indicated their preparedness to cancel Mozambique's debt. Britain last week decided to cancel US $150 million owed by Mozambique, while Portugal wrote off US $150 million and Spain cancelled US $20 million.
Jubilee 2000 argued that debt cancellation would make a significant difference only if Russia, Italy and France write off Mozambique's debts, which make up 50 percent of the country's bilateral debt.
After completing six years of IMF-driven economic reforms, Mozambique was offered debt relief of US $3.7 billion last year under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative. Debt service payments were reduced on an annual basis from an average of US $114 million to US $73 million.
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