28 July 2020
  • land management
  • Climate-Related Security Risks
  • climate change

The impact of climate change on humanitarian disarmament

Land mines and cluster munition have been used widely due to their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. Annually, over 5,000 people are killed or injured by land mines alone and they are most apparent throughout Africa and (western) Asia. Various actors aim to clear regions from mines and munition to make areas habitable again and to improve local security. However, the detection and removal face technical, political, economic, environmental and humanitarian challenges.

The Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) indicates how climate change is increasingly affecting the clearance work of local organizations. Factors which accompany climate change include erratic rainfall, melting snowfields and retreating glaciers. In turn, this can result in landslides, mudflows and floods. They elaborate upon the situation in Tajikistan and Angola and mentions three ways in which climate change affects mine clearance activities:

  • One perceives landslides and mudflows as non-hazardous when they occur in remote areas. However, if such phenomena occur in areas contaminated with landmines, the landmines can be carried ‘downstream’ and threaten unsuspecting communities.
  • Moreover, previous assessments of minefield locations require revision if the location of mines might have changed due to climate change. Areas which currently have a low priority for clearance might be more important to be cleared when taking into account the effect of rainfall, mudflows and landslides.
  • Additionally, weather conditions such as increased periods of rain can delay clearance activities.

The expertise of mine clearance operators in terms of the identification of areas vulnerable to climate change is limited. The author advises governments to cooperate with national mine action authorities to analyze whether minefields are located in areas vulnerable to climate change. If no action is taken, communities can become at risk or clearance activities will become increasingly complex and costly. Moreover, she calls for the development of guidelines to evaluate or plan for the impact of climate change on mine action.

Read more about the interlinkages between climate change and humanitarian disarmament here.

Photo credit: Department of Foreign Affairs / Flickr