Demining in the mountains
Handicap International’s demining operations have been running since 2011 in the province of North Lebanon, and more recently have been deployed in the province of Mount Lebanon. The civil war, which tore the country apart between 1975 and 1990, left swathes of land rendered unusable by landmines. This land has now been cleared and handed back to the local inhabitants.
Chris Chenavier, Handicap International’s Head of Mission in Lebanon. | © Handicap International
Chris Chenavier, Handicap International’s Head of Mission in Lebanon, reflects on the organisation's operations in the country:
"Handicap International is a leading actor in demining in Lebanon. We cleared 343,000 m2 of land between January 2011, when we first launched our operations, and October 2015, affecting 30,000 people in 13 different villages.
The zones we have been working in have two defining characteristics: they are all on sloping terrain, which is often extremely steep! This means we cannot use our heavy-weight demining machines. Everything has to be done by hand. In addition, some of the land is at 1,000 - 2,000 metres altitude. We can only work in these areas from March to October due to the snow cover in the winter.
Some of these zones are extremely heavily contaminated: in the area around the village of Niha, in the period from July to September, we destroyed 290 mines!
The region we work in is primarily farmland: we clear the land and hand it back to the small landowners who very rapidly start growing crops again, in particular olive trees. The presence of mines has also blocked development projects, mainly in the tourism sector. These are now free to go ahead and many areas are now open for hiking trips.
We still have 130,000 square metres to demine in the province of North Lebanon. Four demining teams of 12 people (including eight deminers) are hard at work in the area. With each team capable of clearing 30,000 square metres of mines each year, we estimate that the work will be finished by the start of 2017.
Lebanon aims to be "free of mines and explosive remnants of war" in 2020. Although the country is not signed up to the Ottawa Treaty, it does strive to comply with its requirements."
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organisation. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 30 years. It has been conducting anti-mines action since 1992 in four humanitarian demining sectors: demining, risk education, victim assistance and advocacy. Its “global” approach enables it to act consistently in each of these four fields of action, in which it has acquired a unique technical expertise. The organisation works in 43 countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war. Handicap International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its anti-mines actions.
The Ottawa Treaty prohibits the acquisition, purchase, stockpiling and use of antipersonnel landmines. The treaty was opened for signature on 3 December 1997. It came into force on 1 March 1999. 163 States have signed the treaty. 162 are State Parties to the treaty.