Ms Nataša Uršič
T: +386 1 479 65 71
Albania was contaminated with landmines and cluster munitions as a spill-over contamination from the Kosovo* crisis in 1999. The contaminated areas covered 120 kilometers along the Albanian border from Montenegro to Macedonia (an overall of 15,250,000 sq. meters). Since 1999, there have been 210 mine/UXO accidents, in which 238 persons were injured and 34 killed.
By the end of 2009, all areas in northeastern Albania along the border area were cleared, surveyed or released. On 1 December 2009, at the Cartagena Summit in Columbia, Albania officially declared “Mine Free Status” fulfilling its obligations under Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention. This effort was coordinated and monitored by Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE) that was the national body, coordinating clearance efforts,risk education,victim assistance supported by UNDP and international donors. AMAE transitioned to AMMCO (Albanian Mine and Munitions Coordination Office) in 2011 and was engaged as a professional structure to contribute through a similar institutional arrangement and role in the field of UXO/ERW hotspots clearance and ammunition disposal, so as to help to ensure that these components are brought up and carried out in accordance with the International Humanitarian Standards.
Stores of ammunition in former military depots, left over from Albania’s former communist regime, still pose a serious safety threat. In 1992, there were over 194,000 tonnes of ammunition in 955 storage depots across the country, in unstable and poorly maintained conditions. Numerous depots exploded during the civil unrest in March 1997, and several minor explosions have taken place since. The largest and most serious UEMS (unplanned explosion in munitions storages) took place in Gërdec in March 2008, killing 27 people, injuring over 300, and resulting in the evacuation of over 4,000 residents. Following this (which coincided with Albania’s entry into NATO in 2009), the government prioritized ammunition disposal, and launched a national action plan on excess ammunition
According to estimates from AMMCO there have been about 724 casualties from unplanned explosions and UXOs and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO) killing 116 people and injuring more than 608 as of december 2015.
As of April 2016, there are still 10 UXO hotspots from initially 19 ones identified in 2011, to be cleared as per the Albanian government uptaded clearance plan 2016-2018.
What we do
ITF has been supporting a variety of mine action programs in Albania, from national clearance capacity building to actual clearance operations, victim assistance (VA) as well as mine risk education (MRE). By the end of 2009, all known landmines areas in north-east Albania along the Kosovo* border were cleared, surveyed or released. Until the end of 2009, over 16.608 million m² of land has been cleared with 12,604 mines and 4,965 cluster munitions and UXO found and destroyed.
As far as the explosion of ammunition warehouse in Gerdec is concerned, during 1 October 2009 until 30 November 2012 from the international clerance organization (Sterling) funded by wra-USA over 108,000 projectiles/shells were removed (a total of approximately 2,368 tons). Furthermore, 293,000 sq. meters were searched into depth of 2 meters on flat areas and 1.5 meters on the hills. Remaining areas (Zone C and F) about 75.000 sq.meteres were cleared by the EOD AAF teams from January 2013 until March 2016.
In March 2014, ITF, AMMCO and NPA representatives went on assessment visit to Gjeroven in municipality Berat with the main mission to define future steps in implementation of hotspots clearance priority in Gjeroven, planned to be implemented by NPA. On the assessment visit, ITF also checked the status of the equipment on site. ITF prepared an agreement with AMMCO (Albanian Mine & Munitions Coordination Office) for the equipment transfer. Based on the assessment mission, NPA developed a project proposal. The project was successfully implemented in December 2014 funded by WRA-USA. In January 2015, ITF and NPA signed an Annex for the extension of the project until 31 March 2016 and in May 2016 signed and Annex for the extension of the project until February 2017.
Until end of March 2016, 62.180 sq. meters were cleared in Gjeroven task. This presents 93 % of the estimated size of 66,842 sq. meters. Clearance was suspended afterwards, as the only area still remaining is the area that requires mechanical clearance. The period from 01 – 05 February 2016, the NPA TFM executed a training for the mechanical team that will assist in rubble removal and deep target search. Approximately 5,000 square meters of area will need to be mechanically processed in Gjeroven.Clearance in Palikesht started 01 September 2015, with a week of preparation phase, and full clearance starting on 08 September 2015.The clearance was completed on 17 December 2015. 13,321 sq. meters (111%) were cleared. The total area was slightly higher than the original estimate (11,924 sq. Meters), due to required fade-out. The clearance on the Mbreshtan site started on 12 October 2015, following a week of preparations on the site that started on 06 October 2015. In total 33.258 sq. meters were cleared, 4,561 UXO(deferent type of ammunitions), 57 AP fragmentations mine bodies, 6 explosive boxes and 43,985 SAA were found on Mbreshtan tasks (009, 009-a) since the start of operations until 31 March 2016.