The completion ceremony at Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia Protection and Rescue Directorate (RMPRD) and International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) marked the successful completion of the US supported project Establishing Macedonian Underwater UXO Clearance Capacity and Clearance of Lake Ohrid. The completion ceremony, attended also by the representatives of the US and Slovenian embassies in Skopje, was held on 19 February 2010 at Lake Ohrid.
Within the framework of the three phase project which began in 2007 six professional divers of the RMPRD were trained in underwater demining at the Centre for Underwater Demining in Bijela, Monte Negro and received state-of-the-art technical diving equipment needed to successfully undertake the challenging task of removing UXO from Lake Ohrid bottom.
With the training and equipping phases of the project completed, the actual clearance of the Ohrid Harbour and the nearby village Peštani, operation partly funded also by the RMPRD, began on 26 January 2010 and continued for twenty operational days. As a result of the operations, 3300 unexploded ordnances weighing 7.2 tons were safely removed from the lake and later on destroyed by the RMPRD at the military range in Krivolak.
Not only that the project implementation enabled the establishment of the Macedonian underwater UXO clearance capacity which can be deployed by the RMPRD when and where needed it is also worth noting that the absence of fear of UXO at the shores of Lake Ohrid will significantly contribute to the development of tourist potential of the local community at Lake Ohrid as well as of the Republic of Macedonia.
In 2006, the Republic of Macedonia, as the first country in the region of South East Europe, declared its mine free status. The problem of underwater UXO originating from the first and second world wars, however, still remains. ITF is ready and willing to assist the Republic of Macedonia also in tackling this challenging issue.