It will take half a century and $180 million per year to clear mines in Iraq and Syria: UN

Namrata Tripathi
It will take half a century and $180 million per year to clear mines in Iraq and Syria: UN

The United Nations (UN) on Tuesday said it will take around 40 to 50 years to clear the mines, improvised explosive devices and other unexploded devices from Iraq and Syria.

The Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Agnes Marcaillou said it will take decades to clear the mines in the war-torn region. 

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"We are looking at decades of work for these countries to look like post-World War II Europe where we still find some unexploded ordnance here and there," Marcaillou told a news conference marking International Mine Awareness Day.

The UNMAS director also stated that her office is considering a ballpark figure" of between $170 million to $180 million per year to clean up the areas recaptured from the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq. She also said the figure also includes $50 million annually just to get rid of the weaponry from Mosul where a battle between ISIS and US-backed coalition is underway.

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Iraqi forces and a US-led international coalition have been engaged in months-long operation to retake Mosul, an important ISIS stronghold and Iraq's second-largest city. Iraqi authorities in January had declared the eastern region on Mosul as "fully liberated."

Marcaillou said though making Iraq and Syria safe will require a complex, sophisticated effort of "huge magnitude," the areas can be made safe again.

"The more funding there is available the more teams we will be able to hire, the more training we will be able to dispense to Iraqi forces and others," she said. "The end game is to empower the government of Iraq to take care of its own problem like the French and the Germans and the British did after World War II," she added.

The UNMAS director also said the international community will need to increase its fundings to safeguard these areas if it wants the displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees to return to their countries and live there safely.

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