Mosul’s ‘3D contamination’ adds to challenges of deadly mine clearance work

UNMAS/Cengiz Yar Mine clearance experts conduct operations in the heavily destroyed Old City of Mosul, Iraq .

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Demining and other explosives clearance operations are ongoing in former ISIL-held areas of Iraq, but the work is painstaking and even more dangerous because of “3D contamination”, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said on Thursday.

Government-led military campaigns and conflict to retake Iraq’s cities from the extremists, also known as Da’esh, displaced more than 5.8 million people between 2014 and 2017.

Many are still homeless or unable to return home because of what UNMAS calls “significant explosive hazard contamination” linked to airstrikes and improvised explosive devices left behind by ISIL and sometimes even planted on dead fighters.

7.6 million tonnes of debris to make safe, in Mosul alone

In Mosul alone, there is an estimated 7.6 million tonnes of debris from the fighting to make safe, UNMAS believes.

In Mosul, “people want to return home, but the Old City of Western Mosul, you cannot return home to…there is nothing”, said Pehr Lodhammar, Chief of UNMAS in Iraq.

He added: “We are looking at almost two million people who are still displaced outside of their homes, their towns, their villages and our work is to ensure that they can return. We are also looking at over 100,000 houses – of the 100,000 houses destroyed or damaged – potentially with explosives assets in them.”

The update on UNMAS’s work – which complements that of the Government of Iraq – coincides with the launch of an online resource showing the status of mine action in 19 countries and territories, along with current funding status and project proposals.

The 2019 Mine Action Portfolio “constitutes a solid and UN-vetted compilation of requests for assistance put together by affected countries”, according to UNMAS, with total needs amounting to $495 million.

The highest funding requirement is in post-conflict zones including Iraq ($265 million), Afghanistan ($95 million) and Syria ($50 million).

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, UNMAS Director Agnès Marcaillou, underlined the importance of her agency’s mission to ordinary people caught up in conflict.

“Mine action is about suffering, it’s about people waking up at night with nightmares,” she said. “It’s about kids who have their future jeopardized by disabilities; disabilities being mental health or physical disabilities. It’s about a country that cannot get back on its feet, cannot have all the tools they need to revive their economies because their lands are contaminated.”

In Iraq’s Mosul – a former ISIL stronghold – much of the Old City was damaged and destroyed during months of door-to-door fighting to drive out the extremists in 2017.

‘3D contamination’ an additional danger

Countless buildings were also booby-trapped, Mr. Lodhammar explained, noting the additional complications caused by having to work in an urban setting with “3D contamination”, rather than a rural location, where mines are usually buried in the ground.

“In 2018 only, we removed close to 17,000 explosive assets,” he said. “2,000 of these – it’s a staggering amount – were improvised explosive devices; 2,000 devices with pressure plate fuse triggers, trip wires, infra-red devices, anti-lift devices, remote control devices – combinations of the five. This also included 782 suicide belts, many of them actually fitted on fallen ISIS fighters in debris, in rubble.”

When clearance operations started 18 months ago, finding unexploded devices was relatively straightforward, as they were scattered on the ground, the UNMAS Iraq chief noted.

Now, the operation is much more complicated, involving the use of camera-carrying drones to assess the dangers, and heavy plant machinery.

“What we are looking at now, is that we have to sift through the debris,” Mr. Lodhammar said, noting that it was likely to take at least another eight years before Mosul was cleared of danger to an acceptable level. “We have to sift through the rubble, we have to use mechanical equipment dig out parts of the rubble, spread it out evenly, inspect it and that takes a lot longer time.”

The presence of much larger explosive weapons is also significantly altering the work that UNMAS has to do.

This includes unearthing unexploded bombs dropped by coalition airstrikes against ISIL, which are in many cases buried several metres deep in the earth.

“These are not mines any longer, an anti-personnel mine would have up to 230, 250 grammes of explosives in it,” Mr Lodhammar said. “Now we are looking at 10 to 20 kilos.  People are getting injured yes, but there is also more of a tendency that people are actually getting killed by those devices rather than injured, because of the explosive weight, and the fact that many of them are within a container that is made of from metal, creating fragmentation.”

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page

The European Parliament floating over the South China Sea

‘Once-in-a-generation opportunity’ will be squandered, warns Guterres, unless social, economic, environmental challenges are met

Tropical Cyclone Idai affects 1.5 million across Mozambique and Malawi, as UN ramps up response

Climate change recognized as ‘threat multiplier’, UN Security Council debates its impact on peace

From Shadows to Sunlight, Paraguay’s Road to Transparency

Theresa May expresses her optimism about Britain’s economic success while UK business outlook seems ominous

FROM THE FIELD: Weather reports come to aid of Uganda’s farmers

Why capital markets have no more reservetions about Eurozone

Environmentalists have removed nearly 40 tonnes of trash from the Pacific

‘Deteriorating’ human rights in Belarus amounts to ‘wholescale oppression’: UN expert

Azerbaijan chooses Greek corridor for its natural gas flow to EU

The UK’s River Thames has come back to life – with a seal population to prove it

How businesses can create an ethical culture in the age of tech

Security: better access to data for border control and migration management

10 months were not enough for the EU to save the environment but 2 days are

EU leaders let tax-evaders untouched

My Mothers

European Youth Vlog

China dazzles the world with her Silk Road plan to connect, Asia, Europe and Africa

A Sting Exclusive live from Brussels: Solheim’s consequential visit leading the world and the UN

Draghi indirectly accuses Germany of using double standards in financial issues

Britain’s poet laureate has created a prize to highlight poetry about the climate crisis

This Danish scheme is offering free kayak rides… for picking up trash

CHALLENGING THE ZEITGEIST OF DIGITAL – Change making projects innovate mobile support for refugees, inclusive environments, early breast cancer detection and more

“The Arctic climate matters: to what degree?”, a Sting Exclusive co-authored by UN Environment’s Jan Dusik and Slava Fetisov

Italy’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum shuts down with no real replacement. EU’s Triton instead might put lives at risk

Environmental labelling, information and management schemes are central to the circular economy

Here’s how we can use agriculture to fight climate change

Parliament cuts own spending to facilitate agreement on EU budget

The fat from your next takeaway meal could help clean up global shipping

This AI is working with a fleet of drones to help us fight ocean plastic

United States: UN human rights office welcomes California moratorium on death penalty

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Libya civil war, African displacement, global trade tensions, terrorists’ children ‘secretly detained’, and more

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

Mental health and suicide prevention – What can be done to increase access to mental health services in my region?

UN ‘prioritizing needs’, ramping up aid, as Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the Bahamas

UN civil society conference to focus on sustainable solutions for challenges of urban life

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

Why poorer people suffer more from climate change

Gender inequality in the medicine field: two commonly issues

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

World Digital Media Awards winners announced at WNMC.19 in Glasgow, in association with The European Sting

November infringements package: key decisions

EU Emissions Trading System does not hurt firms’ profitability

Malaria: Focus on pregnant women and children, stresses UN health agency report

Wednesday’s Daily brief: Day 3 of anti-hatred summit, UNFPA turns 50, Ben Stiller #WithRefugees, updates on Abyei

These are the 3 key skill sets workers will need to learn by 2030

FROM THE FIELD: Crisis in Kassala FROM THE FIELD: Crisis in Kassala

Greece leaves EU aid program, gets last 15 billion euro

EU Border and Coast Guard: new corps of 10 000 border and coast guards by 2027

UN condemns deadly attack on Burkina Faso church

Low productivity jobs continue to drive employment growth

These countries create most of the world’s CO2 emissions

This is how countries compare on gun deaths

A Sting Exclusive: “Paris is indeed our best bet for a secure climate future”, EU Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella cries out from Brussels

As human genome editing moves from the lab to the clinic, the ethical debate is no longer hypothetical

How digital can transform healthcare in Asia for millions of people

How Big Food is responding to the alternative protein boom

Victim-centred laws ‘paramount’ to combat online sexual abuse against children

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s