Residents of Busovača in BIH Can Now Safely Cultivate Their Land
Busovača is a relatively small municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, yet it faced a major explosive remnants of war (ERW) problem. More than 30 square kilometers of land was suspected of having been contaminated with landmines and other explosive hazards – remnants of a war that ended more than 25 years ago. But even though peace was achieved, for many, safety was not.
Explosives prevented residents from moving freely and, more importantly, cultivating land, gathering wood or breeding animals. Because many residents of Busovača are unemployed and live off the land, these activities were urgently needed to support people’s livelihoods in this relatively underdeveloped part of the country.
One of the people tasked with tackling the municipality’s ERW issue is Nevenka Gavranović, the Assistant to the Mayor responsible for Civil Protection Services. Nevenka started working as the chief public servant in charge of civil protection in Busovača in 2007 and dedicated the last 13 years to activities that included coordinating demining and releasing mine suspected areas. Her hard work and dedication, coupled with the generous support of the United States of America, the Czech Republic and a private donor, Dr. René Schasse, through ITF as well as the assistance of local authorities and organizations, led to numerous successful land release projects.
Thanks to these efforts, the situation for residents of Busovača is much different today than it was only a couple of years ago. The mine suspected areas in the municipality are down to only a fifth of their former size – measuring at around 6 square kilometers. Most recently, a project released more than 45,000 square meters of mine and UXO suspected areas in close vicinity of houses and land used on a daily basis.
Even though there is still much to be done, tangible change has already occurred. “We are now able to safely walk our orchards and cultivate them without knowingly risking our lives,” said Kruno Marković, one of the locals who used to live near the hazardous areas. “Many people had to enter mine-fields in the past, they didn’t have a choice. It was where woods, fields and other fertile land was located. We are very glad that this changed.”
Several of his neighbors share his sentiment. Many can finally access important land – land that will in many ways enable their families to survive the winter. “Now that all this important work has finished, we are no longer afraid. I am no longer afraid for the safety of my son and we can safely use even more land,” said Elvedin Baručija, a father who uses the local forests to gather wood.
Additionally, the goals achieved by Nevenka, the United States of America, the Czech Republic, Dr. Schasse, ITF and others will enable Busovača to continue with its economic development. Industries such as tourism, sports and leisure will be able to flourish and the construction of basic infrastructure like roads and water distribution systems will finally be able to commence.