Report

Deminer
Clearing landmines, making the ground safe again. By Magnus Boström

Deminer searches for landmines: Photo by UN Photo/Jawad Jalali.

came in contact with landmines, for the first time, when I did my military training in Swedish armed forces, in late 1980s. Then, the use of landmines was not a big issue, since it was before the Ottawa treaty. We were undergoing the routine military training preparing ourselves for the event in the distant future when Sweden would be in a war, if ever. So, at that time, I did not think much about it – landmine was seen as just another way of defending the ground, in case of a war. After a career as an army officer in

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the United Nations forces in Bosnia, during the civil war, I learnt what a great threat this weapon is. In Bosnia, we never left hard ground or set foot in uncleared ground. Despite taking precautionary measures, we had accidents as landmines went off under troop vehicles, maiming fellow soldiers. Some of them became wheel chair users for the rest of their lives. There was indeed a lot of ground covered with landmines, planted by all the warring parties. A landmine does not need any sleep, salary or food to be totally dedicated to

the task it was designed for – kill or maim anyone who steps over it, even if a peace treaty is signed. Unless it is deactivated or cleared, a landmine keeps on waiting for its victim – like a patient assassin. According to some statistics, 90% of landmine victims are civilians. And, the socio-economic impact of this weapon on societies that are effected by it, are huge. Imagine yourself as a farmer who can not use his land unless the ground is demined – it is truly terrible. I myself had a hard time stepping on soft ground years after I came back home. Even playing football

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March/April 2010

Independent World report

Photo by Magnus Boström.

Photo by Magnus Boström.

with my children was frightening, though I knew for sure that there were no landmines planted in my backyard. The clearing of minefields – or demining – is a plainfully slow process. A manual deminer can clear from 0.5M225M2 of land in one day. A dog and its handler can do up to 300M2. A machine can clear up to 15000M2 a day. Demining is usually done by governmental agencies or commercial companies. I now work for a company that builds demining machines that can be deployed to clear the numberless minefields across the world. In 2006, I was trained by Swedish army engineers to be a demining team leader, then in 2009 to be an EOD operator. For the past few years, I have been visiting and working in minefields across the globe – Sudan, Bosnia, South Korea, Yemen, Afghanistan. Actually, I am looking forward to the day when I will be unemployed from this line of work, when the world mobilises all the resources necessary to wipe out all the landmines from the face of the earth.

Magnus Boström is an expert on demining and an executive member of the United Nations association of Sweden.
Saila Jan, 29, a Sri Lankan woman trained as a de-mining technician by the UK charity HALO Trust, pictured at work: Photo by Russell Watkins.

Independent World report

March/April 2010

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