Landmines and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) make land and other natural resources inaccessible and cause overexploitation of those available, which leads also to soil degradation. Moreover, they adversely affect biodiversity through unplanned explosions or leaks of chemical substances into soil and water.
Despite their positive impact, mine action operations can also have unintended adverse consequences on the environment and some have been subject to environmental enquiry, as is the case for mechanical flails and tillers. To ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account, it is important they are mainstreamed within the mine action sector and in particular in how programmes are planned and implemented. This is relevant not only for programmes’ effectiveness and efficiency, but also to ensure they are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The GICHD has conducted research and facilitated the dialogue on environment issues within the mine action community. In addition, it has developed the International Mine Action Standard (IMAS) 07.13 that deals specifically with environmental management. Environmental concerns will continue to be addressed by the GICHD in the framework of its strategy 2019-2022.
Contamination from remnants of conflict is a legacy of many armed conflicts, threatening the environment and human security. Addressing these hazards, reopening access to resources and livelihoods and re-establishing basic security, mine action is a critical activity in the transition from conflict to peace. Yet, clearance of remnants on land may also lead to environmental damage. Furthermore, residual risks remain after clearance and states and mine action organizations may face liability in case of accidents. This chapter examines the negative environmental impact of remnants of conflict and discusses the normative framework and good practice aimed to ensure that clearance does not further harm the environment. It is also demonstrated how mine action illustrates and is relevant to a holistic jus post bellum framework. This chapter finally scrutinizes the different challenges related to addressing liability for environmental degradation and damage to individuals from remnants of conflict and from their removal.
Explosive remnants of war negatively impact the environment and some clearance methods used by mine action organizations can potentially lead to environmental degradation. Mine action organizations need to consider the negative impact potential of their operations and adopt mitigation measures to ensure they do no harm.
In times of armed conflict, the environment might be targeted deliberately to reach military or political goals. However, most of the environmental damage resulting directly or indirectly from armed conflict can be understood as collateral damage. Contamination of land and water from remnants of conflict or the presence of deteriorating ammunition stocks are further direct impacts on the environment and legacies of conflicts even long after they have ended.