More than 173,000 square kilometers, or 30% of Ukraine’s area, are affected by landmines, and the clearing process can take 757 years.

A series of huge minefields scattered everywhere has turned Ukraine into the most mined country in the world, along with a large amount of unexploded bombs and shells. This problem not only hinders the long-awaited counterattack of the Ukrainian army but also has many consequences for the country’s economy in the long term.

The Washington Post of the United States on July 23 published a report by the Slovakia-based research organization GLOBSEC, in which intense fighting broke out in an area equivalent to 30% of Ukraine’s territory before the war, leaving 173,529 square kilometers of land contaminated with landmines.

“Kharkov and Kherson provinces are still the areas most heavily contaminated with mines and UXO. The challenge for clearance today is far different from that of before February 2022. The conflict is becoming more intense and prolonged, more bombs and mines are used than before, and the area at risk of UXO contamination is 10 times larger,” the report reads.

GLOBSEC experts estimate that the humanitarian effort to dispose of unexploded ordnance in Ukraine will require 500 clearance teams to work continuously for 757 years.

Each clearing team had to use metal detectors and sniffer dogs to sweep every meter of the earth, then dig up every time a strange signal was detected because they could not determine if it was a mine or a harmless metal object. Each employee can clear 4.5-7 square meters of land per day, depending on the terrain and concentration of explosives.

Clearing can only take place in the spring, after the ice melts and the soil becomes softer, as well as before farmers start their crops.

Russian-Ukrainian war front.  Graphics: WP

Russian-Ukrainian war front. Graphics: WP

Mine clearance is not only a time-consuming activity but also very expensive. The World Bank estimates this operation costs $2-8 per square meter of land and will cost Ukraine $37.4 billion over the next 10 years. The US State Department announced that the US has committed $ 95 million to the demining effort in Ukraine.

“The amount of explosives in Ukraine is greater than anything we’ve seen in 30 years. There’s nothing like it,” said Greg Crowther, program director at the UK-based humanitarian group Mine Advisory Group (MAG).