Can Iraq Overcome its Land Mine Infestation?

By Ibrahim Malazada for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq is one of the worst-off countries in the world in terms of minefield and projectile pollution, with 25 million land mines and other unexploded ordnances scattered across the country. The concentration is especially dense in Iraqi Kurdistan, and efforts to clear the land are meeting with a number of obstacles.

“At the current pace, the estimated time required for the de-mining action in Kurdistan is 100 years," estimated a series of reports by Shamal Adel Slim, a researcher who specializes in crimes against the Kurds.

Some 1.5 billion square meters (about 580 square miles) of land in Iraq contain mines, according to a 2015 US State Department report on surveys conducted in 2006 and 2011.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) estimates 314 million square meters (121 square miles) of land are contaminated across that region. Most of these unexploded mines are the result of the Iran-Iraq War, according to the US State Department, but more accumulated during the 1990-1991 armed conflict and the 2003 invasion into Iraq by the US-led coalition. The Islamic State (IS) and other parties continue to add to the mine count today.

Jalal Jamal Hussein, the general director of the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA), has said 467 minefields are yet to be cleared.

Agency Chairman Mohamed Ahmed told Al-Monitor there are hundreds of mines scattered across Kurdistan in hundreds of new fields mined by IS. These mines pose a real threat to the lives of citizens in those areas and restrict their activity. One main problem is that a financial crisis, which is worsening by the day, is restricting the de-mining action, NRT TV reported July 17.

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