The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development [USAID] provide EGP 13.8m to support the second phase of the Demining & Development national programme on the North-West Coast area.
The programme is supported and funded by the Egyptian Government, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the European Union (€4.7m); read a UNDP statement.
The North-West Coast’s contaminated lands are attributed to the mines and explosive residues left behind at the end of World War II. The conflict left approximately 22.7m landmines and other explosive remnants in Egypt, 17.2m of which are found in the El Alamein area, near the Western Desert.
A total of 94,446 acres of landmines were cleared from the El Alamein area, said Fathy Elshazly, director of the Executive Secretariat responsible for the project.
Elshazly told Daily News Egypt that the programme is in accordance with the Ministry of International Cooperation’s plan, with the project’s first phase, of which the mine clearance is part, started from 2008.
“I hoped that higher results would’ve been achieved by the executive secretariat responsible for the project, post the revolution however slouch steps were taken due to the instability the country was facing at the time,” Elshazly noted.
According to a report on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website, since 1981, the Egyptian armed forces have cleared 3m mines from an area totalling 38,730 hectares, with an approximate cost of $27m. “Statistics indicate that there were 8,313 human losses and casualties since 1982 within the Western Desert, 696 of whom were killed, 7,617 wounded, in addition to many unregistered cases.
Moreover 50 cases of mine explosions’ victims were registered,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Elshazly did not reveal the costs of clearing the mines, but highlighted that the Egyptian government, the UNDP and the European Union (EU) are primarily responsible for funding the project.
“Germany provided us with support more than once and I hope that in the near future they would provide us with more assistance,” Elshazly said. “Britain on the other hand provided us once with financial support and a map with potential mine fields; we are thankful for this. However the British input didn’t meet our expectations from a country that had a special situation in Egypt at the time and was and still is a main source of the potentially explosive objects at the northwest area,” Elshazly noted.
He further clarified that the programme’s role is limited to clearing the northwest area, and not the development of the area afterwards. According to requests from the Ministries of Housing, Agriculture and Environment, 180,000 acres are to be cleared and they are expected to be completed in three years, he said. “We are now using advanced technologies and mechanical equipment to clear the contaminated lands, using discovery devices that can detect under a depth of four metres,” he said, in response to an inquiry about the current facilities used by the Egyptian government to eliminate landmines.
When asked about the roles of other ministries in the process, Elshazly indicated that some official institutions get involved by indicating specific areas or territories that they need for development purposes. The military’s role, Elshazly said, starts after the executive secretariat approves an area to be landmine free. “We then put a mine clearing plan forward and the military performs by clearing the areas and make sure they are safe,” he elaborated.
“To date we have cleared 28,200 acres for the ministry of agriculture, and we’re currently working in another 37,600 acres.” Meanwhile the armed forces cleared 3,050 acres near El Alamein highway, as well as 26,190 acres in the new city of El Alamein, following a request from the Ministry of Housing.
Even though specific requests were made by both ministries to clear the now mine-free areas, to date those areas have not yet been exploited.