Egypt's landmines hindering development (EGYPT)
Egypt has 22 million landmines. That's nearly one for every three citizens, according to statistics issued by the Demining Committee affiliated to the UN. Around 14 per cent of the world's mines have been sown in Egypt, said the Committee.
One-third of the mines in Egypt are to be found in the vicinity of el-Alamein, where an estimated 17 million mines were sown during World War II. The other 5 million are to be found in scattered areas in the Sinai Peninsula and on the Red Sea coast. There are also some areas in the Suez Canal zone, which witnessed major operations in the wars with Israel.
Minister of State for Environmental Affairs Maged George said that mines are the biggest challenge to development plans in Northwest Egypt. England, Italy, Germany and the United States have been trying to help solve the problem, but Egypt still needs further financial support.
The Minister estimated that it will cost LE1.5 billion to clear the North Coast and the Western Desert of mines.
His comments came in a speech he delivered at the International Conference on the Development of and Removal of Mines from the North Coast, organised by the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights.
The head of the ENCHR, Boutros Boutros Ghali, stressed that state-of-the-art equipment is needed to detect the mines.
Officially, around 9,000 Egyptians - mostly children - have been killed or maimed by landmines, but in reality the figure is probably a lot higher, as many Bedouins have been killed or injured too, and have not reported the incidents to the authorities.
"When a mine explodes, it shatters, with metal splinters that can kill outright or slice off the limbs of victims," says Sami Ebada, the head of the Egyptian Centre for the Removal of Mines, recommending that areas with mines in should be properly fenced off and provided with large, clear warning signs.
He also suggests that it's better if the areas are walled off, so that the mines can't migrate due to the effect of the shifting of sand, caused by the wind, especially in Sidi Barani, Borg el-Arab and el-Kharga Oasis.
Meanwhile, the mines in el-Alamein are affected by the rains every November and December. "These rains should be exploited for agricultural purposes, but of course they can't, because of all the mines," says Mohamed Bassiouni, the Director-General of the Centre.
He refers to UN estimates, according to which 850,000 feddans of land in the region of el-Alamein could be cultivated. "This happened under the Roman Empire. A lot of vegetables and fruit was grown here," he says.
Von: 06.02.2006, http://www.andnetwork.com/app?service=direct/0/Home/$StorySummary$0.$DirectLink$2&sp=l16283 - Source : Egyptian Gazzette