Ukraine needs $1.5 billion for priority demining of agricultural land
According to the state information, currently, about 30% of Ukraine’s territory, or 174,000 km2, is potentially dangerous due to mines. Thus, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine claims that there are 349 allegedly contaminated areas, half of which are agricultural land. Obviously, such a difficult situation with land mines poses a significant threat to the agricultural business, endangers the lives of farmers, and results in a loss of investment and opportunities for modernizing the agricultural sector.
Every day, relevant services inspect about 70 hectares of land. Thus, they conduct a rapid response to explosive hazards in residential areas, critical infrastructure and commercial facilities, involving government units such as the State Transport Special Service, the State Emergency Service (SES), the National Guard, and the National Police. These services also work on humanitarian demining which involves the complete elimination of all risks with an assurance of quality demining performed by non-governmental certified operators.
Today, 144 groups of non-governmental organizations with a total of about 600 specialists are involved in humanitarian demining, working in all areas except the combat zone and the territories adjacent to the contact line. Humanitarian demining begins with a non-technical inspection of the territory, identification of hazardous areas, direct demining after the identification of the damaged sites, and external quality control. These works are coordinated by the Mine Action Center, which also conducts monitoring, quality control and certification of future operators. The Center for Humanitarian Demining of the SES also coordinates the work until the areas are cleared and handed over to the authorities.
About 10% of the mentioned 174,000 km2 may be contaminated, but the identification of the areas of direct danger is a lengthy and expensive process. To speed up the non-technical inspection phase, the Ministry of Economy, together with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and the UNDP program, is already conducting a pilot project in the Kyiv region using modern drones to inspect the territories. The estimated cost of a non-technical survey of one hectare can be UAH 5-7 thousand, but in conditions of high demand and an insufficient number of specialists, the cost of demining a hectare can exceed the cost of the land itself.
This situation can be changed by increasing the number of operators and specialists in the mine action market. It takes at least six months to set up a mine action operator – 4 months (400 hours) of training for deminers and 2-3 months for the company to be certified. The situation is slowed down by the fact that currently, only two bodies in Ukraine provide the relevant certification – the Ministry of Defense and the State Emergency Service – and only three centres provide training for deminers. The estimated cost of equipment for one group of 10 sappers is 100-150 thousand dollars. Soon, 40 more mine action companies may appear in Ukraine, as this is the number of specialists currently undergoing certification and training.
Currently, the working group on demining, coordinated by the Ministry of Economy, has prioritized 470,000 hectares of potentially contaminated agricultural land. First of all, inspection activities will take place on land where vegetable crops are grown, secondly, on arable land and grain crops, and thirdly, on all other agricultural lands. Information is collected through regional military administrations, which have their own data and also collect information from farmers. At the same time, priority demining of agricultural land alone will cost about $1.5 billion, according to the World Bank.
These and other relevant demining issues were discussed at a meeting of the EBA Security & Business Protection Committee on “Agrarian Business and Land Demining: Challenges and Prospects” held on March 30 with the participation of the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Agrarian Policy, Ministry of Defense, Ukroboronprom, and business representatives.
As a result of the meeting, the participants agreed that the Committee will develop recommendations for the working group on demining to discuss them further with all stakeholders involved. It should be noted that EBA member companies are already involved in the demining process. The main challenge is to demine agricultural land fast and safely. Since no other country has the experience of this scale of work, Ukraine can eventually become a leading player in the global market of demining technologies.