TECHNOLOGY FOR HUMANITARIAN DEMINING IN COLOMBIAOn October 1st, DDG helped organise a high-profile event, “Technology for Humanitarian Demining,” with the DAICMA (Dirección para la Acción integral contra Minas Antipersonal) and Colombian National Universities. The event highlighted the challenges faced by mine action operators in Colombia, and showcased technological solutions for mine action problems. DDG’s pilot project MApps was presented.
The event took place in Cloister of St. Augustine in Bogota; it was organised by the National University of Colombia, the Scientific and Technical Committee of DAICMA, and DDG, together with the support of the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation of Colombia, APC- Colombia.
It aimed to highlight the research processes performed by the academic community in the country in the fight against antipersonnel mines. Different experiences and progresses in the field, were presented as a part of the “Path of Innovation” framework that Colombia is working on.
Diego Torres, PhD in nuclear physics from the National University of Colombia, and coordinator of the Scientific and Technical Committee with DAICMA, criticised the detection tools that are still in use in the country since they are from the Second World War and they are not adequate for the type of mines that are in Colombia; he stated "Many of the mines in Colombia are not made of metal, therefore metal detectors cannot locate them; this is an extremely important issue and we need to progress in finding a way to take them out".
The main focus of the event was to introduce innovative solutions that include technology to detect mines in Colombia (using ground-penetrating radar, aerial photography, and electro-magnetism, etc.); technology to destroy mines (new disruptors, microwaves, etc.); and technology to improve information gathering and reporting. DDG’s pilot project MApps, which is a web and mobile based community reporting system for explosive hazards, was presented, as well as an application from the University of Medellin for mobile data collection on mine victims.
The event brought together key mine action stakeholders from the Colombian government, national universities, the armed forces, and civilian operators (including DDG) and a “Scientific Committee for Addressing Mine Action Challenges with Technical Innovation” was inaugurated as a result of the event.
The efforts of DAICMA, the National University, and DDG in organising the event has been highly significant in terms of presenting new products and setting up a space for future collaborations and support for humanitarian demining.
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Statistics to take into consideration:
According to the international organisation Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, Colombia is the third most mine-affected country in the world after Cambodia and Afghanistan.
Figures presented by the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) shows that between 1990 and 2015, 11,203 casualties were recorded in Colombia. 8,969 people were injured and 2,234 were killed, being 4,283 civilians, 6,920 from the security forces and 1,140 were minors.
Today Colombia has four municipalities in three departments that are now free from suspicion of mines. There are 15 municipalities in four departments that are undergoing mine-clearance operations; more than two million square meters have been released and over 1,500 explosive items have been destroyed. Despite this progress, there are still 600 municipalities thought to be affected by explosive hazards, that need to be surveyed and addressed through mine action activities.
DDG’s setup of a humanitarian mine action program has been a long process, however thanks to the simplified accreditation process, it is expected that DDG will receive its accreditation and permission to set up operations by the end of 2015. DDG plans to start with non-technical survey and MRE interventions, building up a local Colombian operational capacity to be able to start clearance operations by mid/late 2016.