The Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise SNCO and the Mine Action Activities in Armenia

By Mr. Ruben Arakelyan, CHDE SNCO Director

Many countries in the world face the long-lasting destructive impacts of armed conflicts, even long after combats have ended. Mines and explosive ordnance (EO) are legacies of war that continue to maim or kill people without discriminating between combatants and civilians, or between the young and the old. The Republic of Armenia (RoA) is among the countries that have been the most afflicted by the issue of mine and EO contamination.

To coordinate mine action activities in Armenia the “Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise” state non-commercial organization (CHDE SNCO) was established by the Government of RoA in 2011, assuming national responsibility for the issue of mine contamination. Until 2011, the Armenian Mine Action Program developed under the Armenian Armed Forces. CHDE has a Board, which is an advisory collegial body representing the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Justice. The Ministries are represented in the Board at the Deputy-Minister level. In 2014, CHDE was recognized as the national mine action authority (NMAA) of Armenia. As such CHDE coordinates mine action activities in the RoA, such as: • Technical and non-technical survey; • Mine/EO clearance operations; • Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) and Victim Assistance

CHDE also provides expertise and recommendations on the issue of goods of military importance that are exported from Armenia, imported into Armenia and transferred through the territory of Armenia.

In 2012-2013 the Swiss Foundation of Mine Action (FSD) in cooperation with the “Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise” conducted a non-technical survey. The survey identified mine and EO contamination in the following four provinces of RoA: Syunik, Tavush, Gegharkunik and Vayots Dzor. In total, 11 Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHA) and 121 Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA) were identified. These areas are contaminated with anti-personnel (AP) mines, anti-vehicle (AV) mines, or a combination of both, as well as unexploded ordnance (UXO). According to the survey the province of Syunik had the highest number of CHAs/SHAs (82 out of 131). The survey also addressed the issue of mine contamination that followed the Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabagh dating back to 1988-1994.

Clearance operations of mine impacted areas were initiated in 2014. Since 2014, an area of 270,119 m2 has been cleared, and an additional area of 363,997 m2 has been cleared through non-technical (NTS) and technical (TS) surveys in Syunik province. In Gegharkunik province, an area of 46,882 m2 has been cleared through NTS and TS.

In 2020, NTS operations were conducted in the Kotayk province on the ground of information from the Mayakovski community that the area was contaminated with UXO. The contamination resulted from the explosion resulting from the ignited fire in the military warehouses located in the community of Mayakovski. Clearance operations have followed the NTS. The CHA covering 62,896 m2 was cleared and handed over to the community by CHDE.

As mine and EO clearance is a time-consuming activity requiring a lot of resources, it is very important to prevent people from endangering their health and lives by entering hazardous areas. Hazardous areas are marked by fencing and installing mine warning signs to provide a warning of danger for local population. During 2016-2018, CHDE implemented marking activities in Syunik, Tavush, Gegharkunik and Vatots Dzor provinces. In total, 79 hazardous areas have been marked by covering the perimeter of CHAs/SHAs with tape containing mine warning message and installing mine warning signs.

CHDE conducts Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) to reduce the risks from Explosive Ordnance (EO) to a level where people can live in mine impacted communities safely. All EORE activities are aimed at raising awareness among all the groups of society, educating and encouraging them to adopt a safe behavior to avoid the risk of injury from EO. EORE activities include public information dissemination, education and training. All EORE materials have been developed taking into account the needs and vulnerabilities of different groups. In 2016, the EORE program was organized in the frameworks of the “Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects” financed by the Japanese Government. Within the frameworks of the project EORE booklets and 5 types of EORE thematic posters were designed and published. EORE posters were distributed and posted in 1393 schools of the RoA. CHDE specialists conducted EORE trainings for teachers in order for them to deliver the EORE messages on safe behavior to schoolchildren and to be able to answer their questions correctly. The published booklets were disseminated among students from 14 Universities.

The non-technical survey conducted in 2012-2013 addressed the issue of mine and EO contamination in Armenia, a result from the Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict dating back to 1998-1994. During the latest escalation of the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabagh, the bordering territory of Armenia, particularly the provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik, were bombed. Aerial and missile attacks targeted many civilian infrastructures causing new contamination of areas with cluster munitions. It should be noted that the latest armed conflict greatly changed the scale and the type of contamination. The post-conflict situation has urged a need for planning and conducting non-technical and technical surveys to identify the extent of EO contamination in the territory of the RoA.

Mr. Ruben Arakelyan was born in 14 October 1963. In 1985, he graduated from the Faculty of Geology of the Yerevan State University. In 2006, he founded the geological company “RAKE”. He played a major role in the development of geology in Armenia. Since 2011, he is the director of the Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise State Non Commercial Organisation. Today, the Center continues to record achievements and reduce the quantity of mine-contaminated areas in Armenia. Mr. Ruben Arakelyan is recognized as a leader in the field and known for his uncomparable knowledge and experience.