Colombia Launches National Demining Program

Colombia Launches National Demining Program

By Dialogo
April 10, 2015




A national demining program headed by the Colombian government, the National Army, and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) – an NGO with more than 80 years of experience in demining efforts – is set to rid the country of landmines by the year 2025.

The program aims to end once and for all the deaths and injuries produced by landmines, weapon of choice used in Colombia by terrorist groups, paramilitaries, and criminal gangs for more than three decades.

“Landmines are an embarrassment and a scar in Colombia’s heart that we are going to eliminate,” President Juan Manuel Santos said during a televised national address on March 7.

“This is a program that has a very special significance for the country,” said Álvaro Jimenez, Director of the Colombian Campaign against Landmines (CCCM), an NGO founded in 1999 that has continually fought against the use of the devices. “I hope that it can be a road map towards a mine-free territory.”

The initiative is launching in April in the departments of Meta and Antioquia with the first step: mapping the regions affected by mining. The authorities involved in the demining effort will select which regions to work on first and start defusing explosive devices in those areas. Throughout the process, government representatives, including Military Service Members, will maintain a dialogue with the communities chosen for the program. Demining efforts will conclude in particular areas once the NPA has certified the region has been cleared of the explosive devices.

Colombia has thousands of landmine victims


Dismantling landmines will make Colombia safer for civilians and security forces. Since 1990, landmines have injured or killed 11,073 people, including more than 1,100 children, according to Direction of Integral Action against Antipersonnel Mines (DAICMA). A study by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, an international watchdog, established that Colombia has one of the three highest landmine casualty rates in the world: landmines have killed 800 Colombian civilians and 1,400 members of the Armed Forces in the last 25 years. In addition to those deaths, landmines have injured more than 3,400 noncombatants and 5,400 military personnel. Government authorities believe more than half of the country's municipalities have been mined; in some regions, demining squads have found at least one landmine per 1,100 square meters.

Colombia was not always threatened by landmines. The April 19 Movement (M-19) began producing the deadly devices in the country in the late 1980s, said Colombian conflict analyst Carlos Arturo Velandia. Members of M-19 shared their know-how with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which began using these deadly devices indiscriminately in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Paramilitary groups soon caught on, and by 2005 there were more than 1,000 casualties per year, according to the Ministry of Defense.

To remove this deadly threat, about 500 people have been trained in demining, said Post Conflict Minister Óscar Naranjo. The government expects to increase the number of people trained in demining to 10,000 in coming years.

More than 1,000 landmines have been destroyed


Preventing deaths and injuries of civilians, Military personnel, and police officers is the goal of the Ottawa Treaty, which was adopted and signed by representatives of 122 countries, including Colombia, in December 1997. Toward that goal, Colombia created the Humanitarian Demining Battalion (BIDES, for its Spanish acronym) in 2009. BIDES works alongside Military demining units to clear mine fields in special areas designated by DAICMA and other specialized government groups. So far, BIDES has destroyed 1,106 improvised explosive devices and has cleared nearly 2,000 square kilometers of land.

BIDES has identified five different types of landmines used by FARC, ELN, and other criminal groups. The landmines are made with herbicides, PVC tubes, plastic bags and containers, pesticides, ammonium nitrate, aluminum, gasoline or other chemicals; the devices use electric or pressure triggers to create a powerful explosion capable of killing or maiming anyone nearby.

The cost of building a device ranges from $3 to $30. The cost of defusing such a device ranges from $300 to $1,000.

“The program can end a cycle of hate and resentment,” said Jimenez of CCCM. “If it works, it will generate trust among the civil population and contribute to the possibility of lasting peace.”



A national demining program headed by the Colombian government, the National Army, and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) – an NGO with more than 80 years of experience in demining efforts – is set to rid the country of landmines by the year 2025.

The program aims to end once and for all the deaths and injuries produced by landmines, weapon of choice used in Colombia by terrorist groups, paramilitaries, and criminal gangs for more than three decades.

“Landmines are an embarrassment and a scar in Colombia’s heart that we are going to eliminate,” President Juan Manuel Santos said during a televised national address on March 7.

“This is a program that has a very special significance for the country,” said Álvaro Jimenez, Director of the Colombian Campaign against Landmines (CCCM), an NGO founded in 1999 that has continually fought against the use of the devices. “I hope that it can be a road map towards a mine-free territory.”

The initiative is launching in April in the departments of Meta and Antioquia with the first step: mapping the regions affected by mining. The authorities involved in the demining effort will select which regions to work on first and start defusing explosive devices in those areas. Throughout the process, government representatives, including Military Service Members, will maintain a dialogue with the communities chosen for the program. Demining efforts will conclude in particular areas once the NPA has certified the region has been cleared of the explosive devices.

Colombia has thousands of landmine victims


Dismantling landmines will make Colombia safer for civilians and security forces. Since 1990, landmines have injured or killed 11,073 people, including more than 1,100 children, according to Direction of Integral Action against Antipersonnel Mines (DAICMA). A study by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, an international watchdog, established that Colombia has one of the three highest landmine casualty rates in the world: landmines have killed 800 Colombian civilians and 1,400 members of the Armed Forces in the last 25 years. In addition to those deaths, landmines have injured more than 3,400 noncombatants and 5,400 military personnel. Government authorities believe more than half of the country's municipalities have been mined; in some regions, demining squads have found at least one landmine per 1,100 square meters.

Colombia was not always threatened by landmines. The April 19 Movement (M-19) began producing the deadly devices in the country in the late 1980s, said Colombian conflict analyst Carlos Arturo Velandia. Members of M-19 shared their know-how with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which began using these deadly devices indiscriminately in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Paramilitary groups soon caught on, and by 2005 there were more than 1,000 casualties per year, according to the Ministry of Defense.

To remove this deadly threat, about 500 people have been trained in demining, said Post Conflict Minister Óscar Naranjo. The government expects to increase the number of people trained in demining to 10,000 in coming years.

More than 1,000 landmines have been destroyed


Preventing deaths and injuries of civilians, Military personnel, and police officers is the goal of the Ottawa Treaty, which was adopted and signed by representatives of 122 countries, including Colombia, in December 1997. Toward that goal, Colombia created the Humanitarian Demining Battalion (BIDES, for its Spanish acronym) in 2009. BIDES works alongside Military demining units to clear mine fields in special areas designated by DAICMA and other specialized government groups. So far, BIDES has destroyed 1,106 improvised explosive devices and has cleared nearly 2,000 square kilometers of land.

BIDES has identified five different types of landmines used by FARC, ELN, and other criminal groups. The landmines are made with herbicides, PVC tubes, plastic bags and containers, pesticides, ammonium nitrate, aluminum, gasoline or other chemicals; the devices use electric or pressure triggers to create a powerful explosion capable of killing or maiming anyone nearby.

The cost of building a device ranges from $3 to $30. The cost of defusing such a device ranges from $300 to $1,000.

“The program can end a cycle of hate and resentment,” said Jimenez of CCCM. “If it works, it will generate trust among the civil population and contribute to the possibility of lasting peace.”
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