Saturday, February 05, 2011

Serbia: NPA to start clearing unexploded cluster sub-munitions left after 1999 NATO bombing campaign

Source: Norwegian People's Aid (NPA)

Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) is due to start clearing unexploded cluster sub-munitions in Serbia, left after the NATO bombing campaign in 1999.

In the period 2011 to the end of 2013 NPA will clear around 4.3 km2 of contaminated areas in south Serbia, representing approximately 30% of the total area predicted for clearance in Serbia. Of these suspected contaminated areas, around 40% are agricultural land, 45% forest, approximately 10% relates to reconstruction of housing units and 5% other purposes.

Norwegian People's Aid has in co-operation with the Serbian Mine Action Centre surveyed areas suspected to be contaminated with unexploded cluster sub-munitions since November 2007. The first year of intensive fieldwork on the survey was financed by the Norwegian MFA, since then by the International Trust Fund for Demining and Victims Assistance with funds from the US Department of State.

"General survey is an essential tool when it comes to defining the problem, preparing clearance tasks, releasing uncontaminated land and not least regarding prioritization – first priority for clearance is typically given to areas in which people live in the immediate vicinity of contaminated areas, being exposed to risk in their daily lives. Clearing such areas will remove the risks to life and limbs and laying the foundation for revitalization of agriculture as a large part of contaminated locations are agricultural areas," explained Emil Jeremic, Regional director of NPA in southeast Europe.

Results from the general survey in Serbia indicate that around 30 km2 are defined as suspected hazardous areas, but NPA predicts around 15 km2 will need to be cleared in Serbia, and the rest of the areas to be released upon confirmation that they do not contain any unexploded cluster sub-munitions.

The Norwegian MFA recently donated Norwegian kroner 27,860,000 (Euro 3.5 million) to the Government of Serbia through the bilateral co-operation between the two countries. NPA has been chosen to implement a three-year clearance programme in south Serbia in which the municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo and Kursumlija will be cleared of unexploded cluster sub-munitions, left after the NATO bombing campaign in 1999.

The three municipalities were chosen based on the results from the general survey, in which these were regarded as some of the most heavily affected areas in Serbia, where unexploded cluster sub-munitions pose a considerable threat to the population and a hindrance to cultivation of the agricultural land and exploitation and maintenance of forests.

"NPA is grateful for the generous support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to this important clearance programme", said Jeremic.

"Likewise we are glad for the excellent co-operation we have with the Serbian Mine action Center in the field of survey and clearance of contaminated areas in Serbia. However, we do hope that the Republic of Serbia soon will sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, as this represents a part of the solution to the problem, in Serbia as in other affected countries," he added.