UN Floods Response: Restoring Water Supply in Mine Affected AreaSep 24, 2014
Floods that hit Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 2014 damaged more than 40,000 homes and affected lives of more than one million people. The floods brought, among others, the landmine issue to the surface of the country’s most urgent safety concerns. More than 70% of the flooded area was considered as mine suspected and over 30,000 UXO’s and landmines were recovered and disposed of during the emergency flood response.
Flooding disrupted the everyday routines of thousands of families in communities around the country. The floods uprooted families and homes throughout the region, made local roads and water supplies unsafe and inaccessible, delaying return of affected families to their homes. Necessities such as water, food and housing were something before the floods people always had access to but had suddenly been deprived of.
The community of Sapna, in North-East Bosnia and Herzegovina, was sorely impacted when their water supply was cut off by landslides that carried landmines. For over one month 4,500 people were left without access to water. As a temporary solution, the armed forces delivered portable water to affected communities, but the problem remained.
“We need to clear the landmines and if we don’t we must find another solution for supplying the community with water.” said Ismet Omerovic, Mayor of Sapna.
Urgent demining was initiated to clear the area and regain access to the water supply. Flood debris and landslide from a confirmed minefield became situated on top of the water supply. Demining was needed to clear the area and regain access to the water supply directly beneath. A 13-member team consisted of demining experts and support staff worked for 25 days to access and clear the site. Lifting trees and earth, while maneuvering throughout the area with caution, land was made more accessible for deminers to enter and further assess the contamination. Flood debris was removed by a bulldozer while deminers were continuously inspecting the hazards. After 19 landmines were safely removed and the land was thoroughly inspected, it became possible to fix the water supply line and relieve the area of a great safety concern.
With support of UNDP and funding provided by UN CERF, a 25 day demining effort made it possible for the water supply to be repaired and available again to the 4,500 people who had been without access to portable water. Sapna is an example of one of the many activities that emerged as a result of devastation caused by the floods. The efforts seen in Sapna helped restore the livelihoods of the community and return the land better than it had been before, clearing the way for future development in a country with fewer mines.