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EGYPT: Unexploded mines block development in northwest

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    It estimated that 697 people have been killed and 7,617 injured by landmines and UXO in Egypt since World War II EGYPT: Unexploded mines block development in
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2008
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      It estimated that 697 people have been killed and 7,617 injured by
      landmines and UXO in Egypt since World War II


      EGYPT: Unexploded mines block development in northwest
      http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=76510


      CAIRO, 31 January 2008 (IRIN) - A vast coastal strip in Egypt's
      northwest between the city of Alamein and the border with Libya cannot
      be developed because of an estimated 22 million landmines and
      unexploded ordnance (UXO) lying there since the end of World War II,
      said Fathy El-Shazly, national project director for mine clearance and
      development at the Ministry of International Cooperation.

      The area is rich in natural resources, with reserves of 4.8 billion
      barrels of oil, 13.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and over 600
      million tonnes of mineral resources, according to government sources.

      "The northwest coast has great development potential; the area is one
      of the greatest promises for Egypt. But the mines deny access to a
      landmass of approximately 22 percent of the national territory. So we
      cannot benefit from that development potential because of the
      landmines and UXO from World War II," El-Shazly said.

      A US$10.86 billion project - Support to the North West Coast
      Development Plan and Mine Action Programme - was signed by the UN
      Development Programme (UNDP) and the Egyptian Ministry of Planning in
      November 2006. Its aim is to promote development, implement
      agriculture and livestock projects and increase the local production
      of barley, vegetables and livestock fodder in an area considered to be
      one of Egypt's breadbaskets.

      According to Amin El-Sharkawy, UNDP assistant resident representative
      in Egypt, the plan also aims to create 400,000 new jobs as well as
      attract an anticipated 1.5 million new residents from over-populated
      areas.

      Egypt's current population of about 80 million mainly live in the
      fertile Nile Delta, and is expected to grow by another 15-20 million
      in the next 20 years.

      Heavily mined

      Photo: Mary Wareham/MAHRF
      Between 1983 and 1999 the Egyptian armed forces cleared 2.9 million
      mines from an area of 38,730 hectares at a cost of $27 million

      According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2007, a publication by the
      International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Egypt is one of the most
      heavily mined countries in the world, along with such hotspots as
      Afghanistan, Angola and Bosnia.

      It estimated that Egypt holds 21 percent of the world's total number
      of landmines and UXO and that 697 people have been killed and 7,617
      injured since World War II.

      Between 1983 and 1999 the Egyptian armed forces cleared 2.9 million
      mines from an area of 38,730 hectares at a cost of $27 million,
      according to a report by the Military Engineers Department at the
      Ministry of Defence.

      Demining stopped in 1999

      Photo: Mary Wareham/MAHRF
      A sign warning of mines on the northwest coast of Egypt

      However, El-Shazly said that demining operations in the western desert
      stopped in 1999 because of budgetary constraints.

      There are still 248,000 hectares of land infested with about 16.7
      million mines and UXO. Officials estimate that an additional $250
      million is needed to finish clearance operations, including funding
      for mechanical equipment, mine detectors and protective equipment.

      A revised programme is scheduled to start this year, according to the
      Secretariat for Mine Clearance and the Development of the North West
      Coast, a government body. In addition to demining, the programme will
      also have mine risk education and victim assistance components. The
      $1.3 million project is supported by the Ministry of International
      Cooperation, UNDP, the Ministry of Defence, the UN Children's Fund, as
      well as civil society and private sector donors.

      Political will

      Ayman Sorour, director of the non-governmental organisation Mine
      Action and Human Rights Foundation (MAHRF), said the government lacked
      political will to solve the problem.

      "We possess the technical expertise to clear the mines, and money is
      not an issue. If President [Hosni] Mubarak calls the Egyptian army to
      clean it up, they would clean it up and nobody would talk about
      money," he told IRIN on the phone from his Paris-based office.

      Ahmed Amer, director of the Gardens of Peace Association which works
      on the issue of landmines in the Marsa Matrouh Governorate, said that
      for Egypt "World War II will be finished when all the mines and UXOs
      are cleared from the area".

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