ANAMA: There are about 5,000 UXOs in the territory of Ganja Aluminum Plant

ANAMA: There are about 5,000 UXOs in the territory of Ganja Aluminum Plant
# 13 April 2007 11:34 (UTC +04:00)
Director of Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) Nazim Ismayilov has been interviewed by the APA

- What is you assessment of ANAMA’s activity in the past seven years?
- When the agency was established we trained officers with participation of foreign specialists and created logistics. UN Development Program, US, Canada, Norway, Italy, UK governments assisted us in this. International donors have allocated $22mln to ANAMA up to now. 500-600 officers are working in ANAMA and organizations operating together with the agency. Modern equipment is applied in neutralizing mines and UXOs. 40mln sq m area has been cleared from mines and over 100,000 missiles, mines were disarmed. De-miners found about 50,000 mines in 1994-1998. We are clearing unexploded shells in Fuzuli, Agstafa, Agjabedi, Khanlar and Aghdam remained from Soviet army in the framework of cooperation with NATO.
- What standards are used in ensuring security of sappers?
- Fortunately, no accident happened to sappers. ANAMA pays special attention to safety rules. Our national standards conform to international standards. Cadets train for 2 months and get certificate after passing exams. Young sappers work together with experienced ones. Dogs and robots are used in clearing mines in order to ensure security. We have six big de-minining equipment.
- Do you plan to increase the number of sappers?
- We have no such plan yet. We had 27 sappers, trained by foreigners when we started operating. Now we have 280 sappers. All of them are natives. Increasing number of sappers needs a lot of funds. An ordinary sapper’s salary is AZN300. $10,000 should be allocated on training of every sapper and equipment.
- Do you plan to buy new equipment?
- We buy new equipment every year. Bozena-4 bought from Slovakia is now in the base in Horadiz. This equipment is very expensive $300,000-1.3mln. We have 32 dogs, they cost $10,000-13,000.
- UXOs are found not only on the front line, but also in the regions where soviet military bases were situated. They say program on finding and neutralizing of these UXOs is being prepared.
- When we get report about UXOs, our officers get there and disarmed them. We had operations in Terter, Tovuz, Goranboy and even in Yasamal district of Baku.We have been recently notified about the existence of approximately 5,000 unexploded ordnances in the territory of Ganja Aluminum Plant. These ordnances were taken to the plant as metal. We will start clearance there in June. Let me inform you that ordnances were found while excavations in Gazakh and Aghstafa regions during the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. We cleared 32 km of area 60m in width within three months in the territory where the pipeline was to pass through. According to the investigation taken by the Cabinet’s order, totally 200mln sq/m area in 12 regions remain to be risky. The clearance of these territories will cost AZN 50mln in three or four years.
- How long will it take to clear Azerbaijani territories liberated from Armenian occupation?
- Basing on the international experience we can say that approximately 4-6 percent of such territories present mine risk. Taking this into account, we have made some calculations with the World Bank experts. According to the calculations, approximately 500-600mln sq/m of the occupied territories present mine risk. We cleared 45mln sq/m of territory within four years. We can achieve clearance of 40-50mln sq/m of territory per year. Taking this into account, sweeping of these territories will take 10 or 12 years and cost $600mln.
- In what regions you detect mines or UXOs?
- Mines and UXOs are mainly detected in the liberated territories and in the front line in Fuzuli region where was battle field. Aghdan and Terter regions are also in the list. Neither Armenians nor we have the map of the mines territories. The defense ministry has not yet presented us the existing map. We also detect plastic mines during mine-sweeping operations.
- In what stage is the Saloglu project right now?
- We started mine-sweeping operations in Saloglu a year and half ago in the framework of the NATO-supported project. The operation is making progress. The first stage is to end in late May. The second stage is to start in June and last till June, 2008. We have disarmed 137,000 ordnances in Saloglu. Approximately 200-250 thousand ordnances, missiles, shells are supposed to remain the Saloglu base of the former Soviet Army.
- Have you protested to donor countries and the British government with regard to the Halo Trust’s carrying out mineclearance in the Armenia-occupied territories of Azerbaijan?
- ANAMA and the Foreign Ministry have many times protested to donor countries against the illegal activity of the Halo Trust. But it is still operating in Nagorno-Karabakh. This organization is funded by the Netherlands (70%) and the British government (20-25%). There are also Armenians among the supporters. They say Halo Trust is giving humanitarian assistance as Azerbaijan cannot do it and Armenia has not enough potential for this. But it is not true, of course. Halo Trust is organized by former military men. 50 percent of the organization’s members are engaged in mineclearnace and the rest in other activities, including intelligence. According to Russian reports, Halo Trust carried out the analogous mission in Chechnya in the 90s of last century. It is clearing mines but also teaches how to bury mines.
- Is Azerbaijan going to join the Ottawa Convention on Prohibition of Anti-Personal Mines in the near future?
- Azerbaijan can not join to the Ottawa Convention until the war ends. None of the neighboring states joined this Convention. If we join it, we are to ban anti-personal mines. But it would not be right now. However, Azerbaijan has set up a humanitarian agency, and we comply with the requirements of the Convention.
- We hear more cases on soldiers striking mine in the front line. Why it happens?
- Soldiers do not like my opinions on it. The areas where the soldiers strike mines are under the control and we can not enter there. We are prohibited to work in those areas. The occurrence of incident during the operation is natural. If the incidents occur far from the operations, to my opinion the head of the army there is responsible for it. Mine areas should be marked and the area should be explained to the servicemen. Incidents occur because of irresponsibility. I offered that we can raise mine awareness for military servicemen. I heard that explosion occurred while soldiers in Nakhchivan were digging a trench several days ago. Three mine explosions occurred this year. 7 soldiers injured and 2 were killed in two of these explosions. And one civilian injured in one of them. The soldiers stroke mine not during operation, but during dealing with other works. I say again, everything depends on servicemen themselves. There should be strong awareness and discipline.
- Mine obstacles that Armenian forces set up in front line would create difficulties for Azerbaijani Army if military operations start. How can ANAMA help the Army?
- Our agency deals with mine clearance. We can offer machines for the Army to be used while passing mined territories. We offered our assistance when struggling against the fires occurred in the front line last year.
- How many mine explosions occurred in the territories where civilians returned during the ceasefire? Do you have any statistics on casualties?
- More than 2,000 people have suffered from mines since 1991. 400 were killed, others are invalids. Nearly 150 people have suffered since 2001. 27-30 people suffer from mines every year and nearly 30% of them die./APA/
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