Landmines, ammunition and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) make land and other natural resources inaccessible. When a piece of land is made inaccessible, there is increased usage on the next available piece of land which could lead to soil degradation and the unsustainable management of natural resources. Mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) can also adversely affect biodiversity through unplanned explosions or leaks of chemical substances into soil and water.
Clearance methods used by mine action organisations can also have unintended negative consequences on the environment. To ensure that no harm is done, that longer-term vulnerability is not exacerbated and that there is no threat to livelihoods, mine action organisations, like all humanitarian actors, should consider any possible adverse impacts of their operations.
Some aspects of mine action activities have always been subject to environmental assessment – especially the effects of using mechanical flails and tillers. Others have not attracted so much attention, such as the impacts of explosive detonations on soil and air, or of temporary field camps on their immediate environment.
In December 2013, a workshop on the environmental impact of landmines/ERW and mine action was organized by the GICHD, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and the Kuwait National Focal Point. The purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness about the environmental impact of mines and ERW and to share experiences of how mine action and other humanitarian actors can take into account environmental needs as they carry out their operations.
As a follow up, the GICHD has initiated a new project to examine the links between mine action and the environment. Its purpose is to provide mine action actors with practical guidance to ensure their operations do not cause environmental degradation. The GICHD will continue to partner strategically with relevant experts and organisations working in the mine action, humanitarian assistance and environmental fields.