Project ‘Mine Free Sarajevo 2020’ is expected to be completed in September of this year, and according to Nermin Hadzimujagic, one of the masterminds behind the initiative, the results will have a strong impact on both the economy and the psyche of Bosnia and its visitors.
Nermin Hadzimujagic, Director of the Mine Detection Dog Centre (MDDC) and one of the key people responsible for conceptualizing and implementing Project Mine Free Sarajevo 2020, a United States government-funded land release initiative, said that enabling Sarajevo to become mine-free will provide hope to the rest of the country as well as other mine afflicted nations.
“This project is very important in sending a message not only in Bosnia, but also in Afghanistan, Iraq and all other mine contaminated countries, that the goal is achievable,” he told The Sarajevo Times. Mr Hadzimujagic believes that by setting an example of what is possible by clearing the capital, other countries will gain an optimism to follow suit. “So, if we made it in Bosnia, you can do that as well,” he explained.
Project Mine Free Sarajevo 2020, according to Mr Hadzimujagic, will also be a declaration of safety and economic opportunity for citizens and guests of BiH. “Sarajevo attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world, so it’s gonna be huge, saying that finally, they’re free to walk all around Trebevic…Bjelasnica,” Mr Hadzimujagic noted.
“Tourism is growing here, but if you go to Trebevic Hill now, very close to the cable car station, you will be able to see mine signs…I mean if you want to develop tourism, you cannot do that with the mine signs”, he said.
“So, in a few months there won’t be mine signs and Trebevic will be mine-free, for not only tourists, but for the citizens…we have already started to work there, and we are planning to complete it by the end of March,” Mr Hadzimujagic stated.
Marija Trlin, a mine awareness educator and mine victim support worker for the MDDC agreed that Project Mine Free Sarajevo 2020will have a favourable effect on both the economy and the mind’s of people in Sarajevo. “There is economic potential to grow, especially in some municipalities, where we have a lot of forest, and it’s an industry that can develop and provide money and a workplace…but if it’s mine contaminated, nothing is possible…no country can develop fully if it’s still mine contaminated,” she said.
Ms Trlin said that the completion of the project will allow Sarajevans to finally engage in everyday activities without fearing that they might step on a landmine. “People love to go up in the mountains and take in some fresh air, especially in winter and autumn…and going up there is not always safe…but it will be,” she told The Sarajevo Times.
“They will be able to open up a plant, start a business, let their cattle go…do everything they’re not able to do now,” Ms Trlin explained.
Mr Hadzimujagic told The Sarajevo Times that he looks forward to the future that the successful completion of project Mine Free Sarajevo 2020 will bring. “We have mine risk education now…but we would like to teach our children about some other things…not about the dangers of mines,” he said.
Both Ms Trlin and Mr Hadzimujagic believe project Mine Free Sarajevo 2020 is a symbol of moving forward in a positive direction for the people of Sarajevo and Bosnia alike.
“Since we started with this project we have issued news [about it], and everybody’s interested to hear, because people are so tired of hearing about corruption and politics, and this news is positive,” said Ms Trlin.
One of Ms Trlin’s clients, a mine victim who lost her leg when she was eight years old while walking with her father in the mountains, told Ms Trlin that for her, Mine Free Sarajevo 2020means that “we can finally overcome our differences, we can finally leave the war behind us”.
“[People], they want to see the light at the end of the tunnel”, Mr Hadzimujagic added.
Since Mine Free Sarajevo 2020’s official launch on the 4th of April 2019 on International Mine Awareness Day, the land release of two municipalities have so far been completed, and a third municipality is expected to be finished by the end of March. The two remaining municipalities will be completed in September, Mr Hadzimujagic stated.
Mine Free Sarajevo 2020is being implemented by the MDDC in partnership with the US Government, The Marshall Legacy Institute and ITF Enhancing Human Security.
Written by Miya Yamanouchi, photo: Stav