Clearing Landmines

img_1523Photo: elephant landmine victim heals at Elephant Nature Park

In the previous blog posting, I briefly discussed how landmines often maim elephants.  Obviously, if they hurt elephants, they also pose a huge threat to humans.

Landmines are a cheap and effective means of war.  According to the UN, it cost the USA only $3 to lay a landmine, but over $1000 to remove it.  Landmines are scattered throughout Asia, many from the Vietnam War era.  Although finally the USA has been making an effort to remove them, it is a Herculean effort, requiring experts to go through a field inch by inch.  In one day’s work, twenty square meters (215 sq ft)  may be covered.

Here is a report from UNICEF:

“Land-mines cause enormous pain and suffering but they also bring lingering economic and social costs. In addition to the expense of medical treatment, and the cost to families of caring for injured relatives, they also hinder the flow of goods and people, and put huge areas of agricultural land out of production. In addition, the availability of land-mines contributes to the permanent ‘militarization’ of daily life.”

The good news is the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty had 162 state parties agree to ban “the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines and places obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles.”

The bad news, aside from being a long process to clear old mines, is that Myanmar did not sign the treaty.  Since 1997, mines have been laid every year.

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