Landmines, ammunition and other remnants of conflict can deny access to land and other natural resources. A consequence of this is increased pressure on available resources, resulting in soil degradation and the unsustainable management of natural resources. Mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) can also adversely affect biodiversity, and degrading ammunition can lead to 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 negative impacts of their operations. This is especially the case when undertaking mine clearance both on land and under water.

Some aspects of mine action work have always been subject to environmental assessment – most obviously 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.

Demining machines

In December 2013, the GICHD co-organised a workshop with the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and the Kuwait National Focal Point on the environmental impact of landmines/ERW and mine action. The purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness about the environmental impact of mines and ERW on the environment, and to share experiences of how mine action and other humanitarian actors incorporate environmental considerations into their operations.

In response to the workshop discussions, 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.