What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Laying of mines may perpetuate spill-over effects - The Tajik case

The MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Series No. 3
March 2007 saw the second demining season get underway in the Tajik-Afghan border region in Tajikistan. The demining season normally sets off in the spring and ends around November for weather reasons - largely coinciding, by-the-way, with the so-called guerrilla seasons (the kind of guerrilla season that ISAF has been preparing for so much in Afghanistan this year) in the high-altitude mountainous terrain where those are also determined by the melting and the fall of snow.

Tajikistan is a good example of a country suffering from negative spill-over effects from its neighbourhood long after those emerged and, at least in part, dissolved. The reason for that in the case of the Tajik-Afghan border area is the laying of mines that served as the primary means for Russian forces, active in border protection duties in the area, used against infiltration to Tajik territory by Islamist insurgents as well as smugglers. However, Tajikistan is also a source of its own problems. The internal armed conflict that took place in the country in the 1990s produced a very significant mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem in central parts of Tajikistan. And exactly in defense against conflict spillovers from Tajik territory, Uzbekistan laid a lot of mines in the undemarcated Uzbek-Tajik border area, some of which mines also affect communities in Tajikistan.

In the Uzbek-Tajik border area alone, some 72 people died and 85 were injured since August 1999, according to data cited by Jonmahmad Rajabov, head of the Tajik Mine Action Centre (TMAC, a government agency created in 2003 after a deal between the Tajik government and UNDP) here. And since 1992 some 300 people were killed and an additional 300 injured (some of them very seriously, obviously) altogether in Tajikistan, according to data given by IRIN Asia here. Economic damage is also to be noted: more than 2,000 livestock lost near the Uzbek border alone, and traditional rural forms of economic activity, like e.g. wood-gathering, grazing etc., hampered wherever mine contamination is a problem.

The Tajik Mine Action Centre needs US $5.5 million to fully carry out this year's demining plan, however, the various donors involved are usually unable to meet these demands for funding in time for the beginning of the demining season which would otherwise be of critical importance. The funds are used not only for mine clearance, of course, but also for mine risk education and other complementary purposes.

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