The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered to be one of the most heavily mined regions of the former Soviet Union. Mines were laid from 1991-1994 by both Azeri and Karabakhi forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
The United Nations and the U.S. had estimated the number of mines in Nagorno-Karabakh at 100,000, but after its 1998 assessment mission, the UN Mine Action Service concluded that the mine problem was not nearly as bad as original estimates portrayed.
Nagorno-Karabakh has stated that it has never produced or exported mines, and has not purchased new mines since 1995; its mine stockpile consists of mines left over from the former Soviet Union (PMN, PMN-2, POMZ-2, OZM-72, TM-57 and TM-62 mines). There were no official reports of new mine use in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2004 or the first half of 2005.
An estimated 69,000 residents in 60 villages in Armenia are afflicted by the problem.
This year, we have cleared almost entirely the territory of the village Shurnukh in the Syunik region [in southern Armenia],” said Movsisian. “Before they withdrew from the village, the Azerbaijanis randomly mined arable lands, gardens and some of the forests. We got the job fully done in the village and cleared 215,000 square metres. Locals can now cultivate their land without fear
There is no information on the number of mines laid along the current border-line between Karabakh and Azerbaijan, but it is common knowledge that mines were being laid by both sides along the border during several years after the end of the conflict. It is estimated that far greater mine clearance capacities will be required when the peace agreement is signed between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Karabakhi Army has an engineering battalion that is involved in the clearance of minefields of strategic importance.
The HALO Trust - UK based demining NGO, is the only other organisation conducting demining in Nagorno Karabakh. In 1995 and 1996 HALO conducted an 18-month long programme in Karabakh that established a mine clearance capacity for the local authorities. This included a survey of the region and the equipping and training of deminers. The teams operated without assistance for three years and whilst they successfully cleared hundreds of mines, their equipment had degraded and accurate records of clearance had not been kept for some time.
HALO resumed mine clearance in Karabakh in 2000 with a view to reinforcing capacity through a project of re-equipment, providing additional training and by establishing a mine action centre (MAC). The MAC collates information concerning mines, UXO and safe routes, and disseminates it to all who require it, in particular other NGOs and international humanitarian bodies operating in Karabakh. Mine clearance in Karabakh by the HALO Trust continues to the present day. According to the Landmine Monitor, in 2004 the HALO Trust cleared 3.6 square kilometers of affected land through manual and mechanical demining, and a further 450,000 square meters in 2005 through April. It concentrated clearance on farmland, and re-focused mine risk education on adults, in view of mine casualties rising as agricultural production increased. By the end of 2004, ICRC had provided safe play areas for children in 27 villages.
From 2000 to 2003, HALO cleared 2,691,097 square meters of affected land manually, cleared 45,414,190 square meters by battle area clearance, surveyed 7,767,500 square meters, and destroyed 2,167 antipersonnel mines, 977 anti-vehicle mines and 8,710 items of UXO.
In 2004, HALO cleared 3,580,289 square meters of affected land through manual and mechanical demining, destroying in the process 675 antipersonnel mines, 340 anti vehicle mines, 2,040 UXO, 2,352 items of stray ammunition and a large quantity of small arms ammunition.[12 ] Types of land cleared were primarily agricultural (1,519,953 square meters), access routes (1,003,537 square meters), major infrastructure (139,415 square meters), community infrastructure (33,900 square meters) and other (883,484 square meters). This represents an increase on 2003, when HALO cleared 2,302,761 square meters.
In 2004, the Engineering Service of the Army and the Department of Emergency Situations destroyed 48 antipersonnel landmines, 37 anti-vehicle land mines, 447 UXO and 5,141 items of small caliber explosive ordnance.