Find A Better Way visits Croatian Minefield

Sir Bobby Charlton joined a number of academics from various UK Universities on a visit to an active Croatian minefield earlier this week. The trip, organised and funded by Find A Better Way, was designed to give researchers personal experience of a minefield and landmine detection.

The group, kindly hosted by the Croatian Mine Action Center, saw first-hand the slow, arduous, and dangerous process that remains the primary method of accurate landmine detection.

Situated behind a row of houses and just a matter of yards from a local football pitch, the minefield was previously just a section of overgrown wasteland. But beneath the surface exist a number of deadly mines left over from the Balkan conflict in the early 1990’s. Some twenty years later, the field is suddenly a hive of activity as deminers set about transforming the area from a no-go zone into land that can be used by the local farming community.

As the group arrived on the side of a dusty road, the only immediate suggestion that the area was mined territory was a big red sign, propped up against the wall of a well-kept garden. But just around the corner, the group were faced with a large ploughed field, covered in red tape and cordoned off with a filmsy white barrier. Working away in the field were approximately eight people, most armed with metal detectors, with one leading a dog up and down.

These deminers, each clad in heavy protective vest and helmets, must painstakingly cover each grid, marked out by the red tape. Using their metal detectors they listen intently for any alteration in the sound that could signify the presence of a mine. This work is so strenuous that each deminer is only allowed to work a maximum of five hours per day, and they are barred from working in wet conditions for safety reasons.

The trip formed part of FABW’s call for ‘Novel Ways of Detection for Humanitarian Demining’ and it is hoped that these experiences will help the researchers to understand more about the immense problems that landmines continue to pose to countries worldwide and incorporate such understandings into their work.