Landmines and other explosive remnants of war are significant obstacles to development. When they have been laid around transport networks, they impede basic movement, raise transportation costs and threaten livelihoods.
In an innovative public-private partnership (PPP), the International Road Transport Union (IRU) funded the removal of mines near the highway linking Kabul with its northern provinces, making the area safe for those who travel along these routes and bolstering trade. The highway is a critical transport artery for Afghanistan, with some 2,000 light and heavy vehicles plying the road day and night, ferrying passengers and goods such as fuel, building materials, foodstuff, and livestock throughout the country.
Villages that had sprung up around the highway were also key beneficiaries of the project, and locals can now safely collect firewood for cooking and heating – an important benefit during the frosty Afghan winter – and walk around their villages without fear.
Halo Trust, one of the two implementing partners for the IRU-funded project, has recently completed clearance of part of this highway. Activities started in July 2011 and finished some five months later, having cleared about 9,000 square meters of mines and other explosives.
Abdullah, a villager in Golayee Charmaghzak, which benefitted from this project, clearly perceived the benefits to his community. “The presence of mines and other explosives that were left behind from the Taliban and Northern Alliance regimes created massive problems for us. For example, before the clearance of this area we were unable to use this highway,” he said, referring to the Puli Khumri to Kabul road, “which is a vital supply route for the capital city of Kabul and basically links the central and south provinces to the north and northeast provinces. In addition, this place is an important stone quarrying place for our buildings. Many trucks will carry stone from this area to Khenjan town and Puli-Khumri city. This will be a good source of income for our community.”
“The impact of the mine clearance will be really great, since we will be using the cleared land for grazing; we can freely and safely take our herds to the nearby pastures that used to have mines. All of this will improve the local economy and will prevent accidents, so we are very happy!” Abdullah added.
Edris, a 15 year old from Golyee Charmaghzak village who helps tend his family’s animals, said, “Before, I could not graze the herds. Families used to come to this area during the hot summer months for picnics, but the presence of mines in this area scared the people away and they were no longer visiting this area during the summer. Local restaurants and vehicle owners lost their incomes. Because of mines on the roads and hills, we couldn’t collect firewood for cooking or bring stones from the area by truck to build houses.”
In addition, the clearance has particularly benefitted one minority group – the nomadic Kochie population. The nomads used lands near the main highway for seasonal migrations with their camels, mules and livestock between the various regions and, in previous years, had lost many of their animals to landmines. Being largely dependent on animals, they are particularly vulnerable to the threats caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war.
Edris, the boy from Golyee Charmaghzak, concluded, “Mine clearance has a very positive impact on us, especially for me. I will not lose my sheep and goats like before. We can play in these areas, and we will all be safe.”