Unplanned explosions at munitions dumps increasing
Countries tend to consider surplus of ammunition as an asset rather than a liability
IRIN Africa Humanitarian News and Analysis December 5, 2011
JOHANNESBURG, 5 December 2011 (IRIN) – The rate of accidents at munitions storage sites has risen to unprecedented levels in 2011, despite a growing international commitment to assist countries in managing their weapons and ammunition stockpiles.
“During the first ten months of 2011, the average number of explosions has increased to more than three per month – the highest rate recorded in a calendar year,” said the Small Arms Survey (SAS), a Geneva-based NGO monitoring small arms and armed violence.
“It is unclear whether the problem is getting worse or reporting of incidents is improving. What is clear is that the number of explosions is not decreasing despite efforts to address their causes.”
Nearly all countries have one or more facilities for the storage of weapons and ammunition, which require constant surveillance by a technically skilled workforce, careful monitoring of the humidity and temperature levels of the stockpile, and the safe disposal of ammunition that has reached its “sell-by date”.
|Countries tend to consider surplus of ammunition as an asset rather than a liability|
Pilar Reina, an SAS researcher, told IRIN that “countries tend to consider surplus of ammunition as an asset rather than a liability, and, among other reasons, very often this explains why they do not prioritise Physical Security and Stockpile Management [PSSM].”
Apart from better reporting of incidents, she cited three possible reasons for the increase in Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS): aging ammunition, some of which dates back to the First World War; the dearth of technical and stockpile management expertise; which contribute to the failure to destroy unstable munitions stocks.
The first edition of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG), published by the United Nations on 1 October 2011, acknowledges that “in almost all post-conflict environments, and in many developing countries, a physical risk exists to individuals and communities from the presence of abandoned, damaged or inappropriately stored and managed stockpiles of ammunition and explosives.”
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