Five firing ranges used by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in the Bamyan province in Afghanistan have been cleared ahead of schedule.
In a statement, NZDF said the clearance of the ranges was carried out under contract 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 due to snow cover – 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 1,055 unexploded items – with 222 were identified as NATO items.
Teams carried out an additional clearance of 5,656 hectares to ensure the land was safer for use by local residents.
“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, he said.
Through a concurrent Victim Assistance Programme, OMAR has also provided new prosthetics or orthotic devices or repairs, and facilitated physiotherapy and psychosocial services to more than 10,000 Bamyan locals.