Project explode: Disarmament for a safer Bosnia and Herzegovina

Unexploded ordnance, Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Unexploded ordnance, Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

STORY BY CHRISTOPHER BRAY - There are over 17,000 tons of surplus ammunition in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because they’re chemically unstable, they pose a constant threat to the security of people and the environment.

Right now, I’m an intern with UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina, working on an aptly named Project EXPLODE (explosive ordnance and remnants of war destruction).

Highlights

  • There is not enough public awareness about the dangers of chemically unstable, stored munitions.
  • The task of the project is massive due to the shockingly large number of old, chemically unstable munitions sitting in storage facilities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Socio economic development needs to happen in safe communities, so the exciting part is what will happen after a town is free of its dangerous munitions depot.

Having lived in the country for three years, I can confirm that there is not enough public awareness about the dangers of chemically unstable, stored munitions. I personally didn’t know about all of the dangerous storage facilities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, or that there are many projects and organizations that are working to address the safety threat they pose.

I got to attend the kick off meeting for the project, together with the Minister of Defense and representatives of organizations working on weapons destruction – including the EU military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

We visited the arms disposal site at TROM Doboj in the north of the country and witnessed the scale of the task of disarmament, as well as the hardships and safety hazards posed by the disarmament technology used before the project started. With EU funding, the project was able to purchase new machines to dismantle ammunition – a faster and much safer (and environmentally friendly) alternative to the explosive waste incinerator that authorities were using before.

What is the explode project working on?

In partnership with the Ministry of Defence and OSCE, UNDP is working to:

The task of the project is massive due to the shockingly large number of old, chemically unstable munitions sitting in storage facilities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. But it’s worth it. The project will make life safer for not only those working with hazardous ammunition but for the many people living in (mostly rural) communities.

Eliminating the possibility of dangerous uncontrolled explosions will have a big impact, but it’s just the beginning. Socio economic development needs to happen in safe communities, so the exciting part is what will happen after a town is free of its dangerous munitions depot.

What are the most interesting examples of communities that thrived after they became free from the threat of arms or mines?