Clearing bombs and mines

  • Introduction
  • Common munitions/UXO
  • Safety
  • Work planning – how do we decide priorities for clearance?


  • See benefit case studies
  • See national operations

    Mortar demolition. Photo: Jim Holmes/UNICEF Clearing land of bombs, landmines and other unexploded ordnance (called UXO) is what UXO Lao does. We employ over 600 deminers, working in 31 districts across the country. These teams work in two ways:

    1. Removing surface UXO: Roving clearance teams visit villages to remove UXO on the ground, usually reported by UXO LAO survey and awareness teams. Over a quarter of all villages in Laos are contaminated, and this is therefore a ‘risk-reduction’ activity as any sub-surface (below ground) UXO will remain.

    2. Removing sub-surface UXO: Area clearance teams systematically clear sub-surface (below-ground) UXO to provide safe land for productive use. This is much slower than roving clearance tasks but is a ‘risk-removal’ activity. The teams use metal detectors, and then carefully use investigate and brush away the earth to determine what the metal is. Sometimes it will be a harmless metal fragment, but sometimes will be a live munition; there’s no way to tell so each reading must be investigated.

    Deciding priorities
    Clearance can be time-consuming and therefore costly. Deciding priority areas for clearance is essential to ensure best-targeted development and benefits. Schools, clinics, markets and other public spaces are cleared, along with land for agriculture and development projects.

    In our work-planning process, we extensively consult with communities and local authorities to determine where clearance is highest priority and can deliver most benefit.

    Field constraints
    In Lao PDR there are many geographic and field conditions that hinder progress:

    • The vast majority of the road network is unsealed and suffers major damage during the wet season. This means villages are inaccessible, limiting the amount of work that can be carried out.
    • Some of the heaviest contamination is in the most remote and mountainous districts in the country and there are often no roads. This requires teams walk to villages; other areas are accessible only by boat.
    • The ethnic diversity of the Lao PDR presents many challenges; one example is that many villages speak languages other than Lao.

    Common ordnance and munitions
    Bombies: is the Lao name for anti-personnel bomb live units (BLU’s). Most accidents in Laos are caused by bombies; unlike landmines, these are designed to kill rather than injure. According to the 1997 National Survey, bombies are 37% of the contamination. Pictured at right are a pile of BLU (bomb live unit) 24s.




    Mortars are 16% of contamination and are shown to the left. Projectiles are 11%, rockets are 6%, big bombs (from 250-lb to1000-lb) are 23%. Landmines only make up 4% of the surveyed contamination.


    Safety
    Safety is maintained through comprehensive, quality training. Teams are supervised in the field, to increase skills and ensure that safety routines are followed.

    Increased productivity whilst maintaining safety has been achieved through the introduction of different types of metal detectors and improved methods of vegetation clearance. Clearance is faster if the threat of mines can be excluded. The detectors find metal fragments as well as UXO. In areas of heavy metal contamination progress is slow. Introducing large loop detectors has substantially increased productivity, particularly in open areas with low ground vegetation and low metal contamination.

    Work planning
    The design and effective implementation of a workplan that reflects the priority needs of affected communities, remains the primary vehicle for UXO LAO Programme development and capacity building.

    How do we determine clearance priorities?

    Roving clearance teams

  • Emergency requests – where ongoing work is halted or daily life is affected due to the presence of uxo.
  • Areas where people have already found and marked ordnance.
  • Items of ordnance on the surface in the village or agricultural land.


  • Area clearance teams
  • Land to be cleared for agriculture in high risk areas, affecting large numbers of people in the poorest villages.
  • Contaminated land where a community structure such as a school, market, or clinic will be built.
  • Land where funded development projects are being delayed by the presence of UXO.
  • Work planning cycle

    August
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    December
    |
    |
    |
    Following
    January

    1. UXO LAO:

    Year-round data-gathering and surveying of contamination

    2. Provincial departments, UXO LAO & Implementing partner: Planning Workshop

    3. District Planning workshop

    4. Community requests

    5. District Committee: Determines priorities and endorse

    6. UXO LAO Provincial Office & Implementing Partner:
        Review for priority and viability

    7. Provincial Development Committee & UXO LAO Provincial Office: Consolidate, then jointly endorse Provincial Plan

    8. UXO LAO National Office
       Review provincial plans, resource planning
       & make financial allocations
       Endorse provincial plans & consolidate to national plan

    9. UXO LAO National Steering Committee:
        Approve National Plan

    10. UXO LAO
        Workplan implementation
        Ongoing data-gathering, analysis & reporting
        August of each year: start planning cycle for following
        year

    This graph outlines how the UXO LAO workplan is developed. It is important to note that in the Lao PDR there is a comprehensive national planning structure that operates across all sectors, from committees in each village, through district and provincial levels, to the State Planning Committee at central level. Where appropriate, UXO LAO has integrated its planning process into this wider structure, to ensure that we do not work in isolation, and that our activities are in accord with the priorities set by villages, districts and provinces.

    [back to top]