New Survey Puts Information On Land Mines a Click Away

In Channa clicks a button on his computer, and a map of Banan district in Battambang province appears. There are 90 areas suspected of having land mines or unexploded ordnance; they are highlighted in pink.

With another few clicks, In Channa tells the computer he wants to see only those areas that are used for rice farming, housing, public buildings, plantations and growing cash crops.

This time, 36 irregularly shaped areas—some alarmingly large—appear. The map is a striking portrait of the extent to which mines and UXOs inhibit agriculture and building use in one of Cam­­bodia’s most heavily mined areas. If he wanted to, In Channa—a Cambodian Mine Action Authority worker who helped develop the database—could look at which minefields are inhabited, which have caused casualties in the last 20 years or which block access to schools.

This database is the result of a two-year, $2 million nationwide survey that shows the locations of all known or suspected land mines and unexploded ordnance.

The National Level 1 Survey was presented in its final form Mon­day. “Despite years of effort to eliminate mines and UXO in Cambodia, these remnants of war continue to pose a significant problem for this country,” said Cana­dian Ambassador Normand Mailhot, whose country funded the survey.

The survey’s uses are “very much development-wide,” said Dominique McAdams, UN De­vel­opment Program resident representative. It can tell deminers where to concentrate their activities, NGOs where it’s safe to build schools and the government where it’s safe to pave roads.

However, many mine action workers at the presentation worried they wouldn’t be able to access the database’s wealth of in­formation, since it will be in the hands of CMAA, a government agency. Mailhot replied that Canada plans to provide funding for the private company that conducted the study, GeoSpatial International Inc, to stay here an­other year and facilitate CMAA’s data distribution efforts.

In the future, new data—topographical information, say, or the land mine casualty information collected by Handicap Inter­na­tional each year—can be overlaid on the existing survey, which will be continually updated as deminers do their work.

“This is not the first time a land mine survey has been done in Cambodia, but it’s the first time…[one has] been done in such a comprehensive fashion, with a focus on communities and community development,” said James Prudhomme of the UN Mine Action Service, who came from New York for the presentation.

The official handover of the database to Prime Minister Hun Sen is scheduled for Thursday.

 

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