Afghanistan: UN aims to have Bamiyan city mine-free by October
New York, 30 July (AKI) – The United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) has announced plans to clear a total of 1,800,000 square metres of land in the historic city of Bamiyan that is contaminated with mines and unexploded ordinance (UXOs) by October.
Bamiyan contains a number of Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified edifices from the Islamic period. It is also where the Taliban destroyed two standing Buddha statues in March 2001.
The mine-clearance project will exclude four sites which have been declared as cultural heritage sites by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and need to be cleared with the cooperation of archaeologists.
“After receiving authorization from the Ministry of Information and Culture we will start clearing the four cultural heritage sites,” said Abdul Qader Qayoumi, the head of UNMACA in Bamiyan.
Nearly 500 de-mining personnel, most of them from Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), an Afghan non-governmental organization (NGO), are working to clear Bamiyan from landmines and UXOs.
Since the beginning of April, 104 anti-personnel mines and 169 UXOs have been found and destroyed.
Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and more than four million Afghans are living in mine-contaminated areas.
As a party to the global anti-landmine treaty, known as the Ottawa Convention, Afghanistan has committed itself to clear all of its landmines by 2013. With the help of the UN, some 65,361,363 square metres of land has already been cleared across the strife-torn nation.
Qayoumi said the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) – which comprises UNMACA and other partners – will start de-mining work in three other districts in Bamiyan province, namely Shibar, Saighan and Kahmard.
Also in Bamiyan, the efforts of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to promote crop diversification and new seed varieties was on display during an event on 26 July attended by some 250 farmers and the Governor of the province.
The programme aimed to showcase practical results in the field, including experimental testing of 200 potential wheat lines and 14 potato lines, which are in the advanced stages of screening for the release of new varieties in the near future, according to FAO.
The participants were also able to visit a newly-constructed modern potato storage facility and a tissue culture/virus testing laboratory nearing completion at the Mullah Ghulam agricultural research farm, which hosted the event.
FAO has been working with Afghanistan to support agricultural and environmental rehabilitation and assist the country to achieve food security.