28 January, 2022
The clearance of the ranges was carried out under contract for the NZDF by Afghan company Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR) ahead of schedule and within budget, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
It had been estimated the work would take up to 52 weeks - spread over two calendar years because much of Bamyan is covered in snow during winter - and finish in March this year.
After completion of the clearance work, the NZDF has received certified Clearance and Handover Certificates for all five firing ranges from Afghanistan’s Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC), which oversaw the work.
During the programme, OMAR:
Located and destroyed 1055 items of unexploded ordnance/explosive remnants of war (UXO/ERW) - 222 of these were identified as of NATO origin and of those 70 items were of an ammunition type used by the NZDF, along with other NATO countries.
Carried out additional clearance of 5656 hectares making the land safer for locals to use.
Through a concurrent Explosive Ordnance Risk Education programme, reached 12,200 locals with instructions on identifying UXO/ERW and on measures to reduce and eliminate harm.
Through a concurrent Victim Assistance Programme, provided new prosthetics or orthotic devices (or repairs) and facilitated physiotherapy and psychosocial services for more than 10,000 Bamyan locals.
“The NZDF is pleased this work has been completed ahead of schedule and the land can now be used by locals with more confidence in its safety,” said project sponsor Wing Commander Darryl Cockroft.
“This project has helped improve the lives of Bamyan locals and builds on the decade of successful reconstruction work by the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team.
“I’d like to thank OMAR for its professional work on this project. OMAR experienced challenging circumstances during the clearance process, but its teams were still able to complete the work safely and effectively.”
The NZDF is now working with the United Nations Mine Action Service to validate and finalise the certification of the UXO/ERW clearance activities, in order to formally close the Project.
The NZDF’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was based in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2013. It operated the ranges (named Yakawalang, Dragon Valley, Beersheba, Alamein and Romero) to fire non-explosive small-arms rounds, as well as some high-explosive ammunition types.
Over the decade, the PRT discovered and disposed of a considerable amount of foreign military unexploded ordnance/explosive remnants of war (UXO/ERW).
When the PRT withdrew from Afghanistan it cleared the firing ranges in accordance with the standards of the time. However, the International Security Assistance Force later introduced a new standard for range clearance. To meet that new standard the NZDF signed a contract with OMAR in December 2019 to undertake the additional clearance work.
OMAR’s UXO/ERW findings reflect the long history of conflict in Afghanistan and are consistent with the remnants found by the PRT during its deployment in Bamyan.