Trust Fund project helps Georgia clear mines and unexploded ordnance

  • 22 Jun. 2011 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Jun. 2011 19:08

Mines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) pose significant security challenges in Georgia, one of NATO’s partner countries in the southern Caucasus. Following a request for NATO assistance from the government, a Trust Fund project was launched in October 2010 to help build capacity for the safe disposal of mines, shells, and other dangerous unexploded munitions.

A special medical rehabilitation centre will also receive specialized equipment and training to further help people who have been severely injured by explosions of such materials.

Decades of regional strife have left explosive remnants of war strewn across the Georgian countryside. The conflict with Russia in August 2008 exacerbated the problem. However, armed conflict is not the only source of such dangerous materials. Some areas around former Soviet military bases – the last of which was vacated by Russia in 2007 – remain contaminated with unexploded ordnance.

Two previous Trust Fund projects in Georgia have focused on destroying stocks of obsolete or surplus former Soviet weapons and munitions that were badly monitored.

“This project will provide Georgia with a military capability to clear legacy minefields and free land contaminated by hazardous ammunition left over from previous conflicts.  It will provide specialist equipment and training to international standards,” says Project Manager David Towndrow of the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) which is responsible for overseeing the project.

The dangers of unexploded munitions

Unexploded ordnance and mines that are unaccounted for pose a direct danger to the lives and limbs of local people, especially in areas around former Soviet bases and training areas. Approximately 400 victims have been severely injured to date.

Unexploded munitions also pose a more sinister threat in the region: terrorists and criminals are increasingly using explosives from such munitions to make improvised explosive devices.

The Trust Fund project will help Georgia address these challenges. A total of EUR 2.87 million has been directed to this initiative, which is led by the Czech Republic, Estonia and Lithuania, and funded by ten other NATO and NATO partner countries.

Building capacity

Under the project, 66 members of the Georgian Military Engineers Brigade are receiving extensive training in basic demining, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), technical survey, methods of instruction, information management and other relevant subjects. The training is being conducted at the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA), which has an EOD training centre that meets all international standards, just a few hours drive from Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.

By the end of May, both groups of 33 engineers had completed their basic demining course.

Captain Mamuka Malasidze of the Engineering Brigade Staff took part in the training and is very optimistic about the results their work can bring: “With acquired knowledge and experience, we will give the opportunity to our citizens to work on their land safely that was not possible before due to contamination. Besides, it is essential that the public is well aware about the threats posed by the unexploded ordnance.”

NAMSA is providing the logistical services required to oversee and manage the project, as well as supplying the equipment for the Georgian engineers to do their job.

To complement the efforts to dispose of unexploded ordnance and address the needs of victims who have been injured by explosions, the Trust Fund is assisting a special rehabilitation centre in the Gori military hospital. Specialized equipment and training will be provided to doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.

“Until now, the treatment and rehabilitation of patients was conducted using minimal resources,” says Dr N. Kervalishvili, head of the rehabilitation section of the Gori Military Hospital.

“Installation of the new equipment will give us the opportunity to improve and more appropriately treat the patients with regards to recovery therapy. The equipment can serve in many different capacities and service will be provided for patients with various injuries including traumatology, neurology, surgery and more.”