JAPANESE

Since January 2008 Komatsu has been supporting a community development project being undertaken by the Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS), a non-profit organization registered in Japan. This project ranges from landmine removal to community reconstruction in areas suffering from the impacts of anti-personnel landmines. In March 2009 the company completed its first joint initiative carried out with JMAS, the "Project for Developing a Safe Village" in Battambang District, Cambodia.

 

The Project Launched in 2008

The village of Reak Smey Sangha in the Battambang District, Cambodia is home to 300 people in 73 families. Other than the roads,the entire village has been surrounded by mined fields. Some people have made their living growing corn despite knowing that the fields had landmines, because they did not want to leave the land where they have lived for generations. A project was launched in July 2008 to remove the landmines buried in the extensive approximate 41 hectares surrounding the village by combining the operations of a Komatsu's demining machine for anti-personnel landmines with manual mine clearance, to be followed by the reconstruction of a safe village.

For the project JMAS stationed a project leader and staff members in the area to work in cooperation with some 35 personnel from the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC), which has a track record of manual demining. Komatsu provided free of charge a demining machine for anti-personnel landmines and other related equipment such as a hydraulic excavator and bulldozer for earth excavation and ground leveling work. The company also donated funds for relevant operations and provided product support through training the JMAS and CMAC personnel in how to operate and maintain the equipment.

In the eight months since the project began, 49 anti-personnel landmines were removed by the demining machine and 62 were removed manually. Demined land was converted into farmland and ten ponds were built to retain water for agriculture. Roads aligned with the farmland were newly constructed or repaired, improving access both within the village and with neighboring villages. The irrigation system was upgraded by laying pipes to existing ponds to cope with the water that inundates the roads during downpours, and the elementary school—a landmark of the village—was reconstructed.

Training for CMAC personnel in how to maintain a demining machine for anti-personal landmines through a detailed demonstration and hands-on work

Formulating a Manual for Demining

This project was a first attempt for both JMAS and Komatsu to create a safe village through mechanization, from demining to developing the infrastructure necessary for daily life. The operation process and its management are critical in carrying out safe and effective demining and infrastructure development. Ensuring the safety of workers and local residents was a priority because incorrect usage of the demining machine and the construction equipment can be a cause for danger in operations. It was also necessary to consider the environment and the desires of the local residents during the course of operations. Work plans were made to avoid the rainy season, since this area receives so much rain that operations become impossible. As corn, a mainstay for the lives of the local residents, was being grown in the mined fields, demining operations could not be launched until the corn was harvested.

A model case for process management based on practical demining procedures was established as a result of considering the circumstances specific to the area while moving forward with the project. JMAS formulated a manual incorporating process management methods for safe and effective demining and post-demining infrastructure development. This manual also features overviews of how to operate and maintain demining machines in ways appropriate for various types of terrain and climate, making the contents usable in other geographical areas.

(Left) An elementary school surrounded by mined fields. After demining, a new school building and school grounds were constructed. (Right) The new school building is made of concrete and its foundation is raised off the ground, enabling the children to study without worry even in the rainy season.

Cooperation from Village Residents

When the project was launched, response from village residents was weak and cooperation was minimal. With the demining and civil engineering work involving dangerous and backbreaking physical labor, even the village mayor showed reluctance to having the project employ local residents. However, through interaction with village residents it became clear that villagers were keenly aware of the importance of developing schools and roads, which would enhance the children's education and their daily lives. Cooperation from village residents came gradually. First, the children began picking up refuse, then their parents voluntarily built the school fence, and other villagers later contributed to the infrastructure development work. Over time, the local residents came to the realization that they themselves would need to maintain the roads and other facilities from now on.

Demining operations using the demining machine for anti-personnel landmines. After demining, the land was reborn as farmland thick with corn.

Revitalizing the Village

Progress in reconstruction caused the flow of people and goods within the village to change remarkably. Construction of the elementary school led the grounds in front of the school to become a place for the villagers to congregate. Developing the roads made the number of children attending school to increase. Trucks transporting goods could now enter the village, leading to the creation of a storage area for corn. As interaction with residents of neighboring villages increased, more general stores were built, with the village residents bustling all around.

(Left) Children playing on demined land where a school is to be constructed. In the past a landmine had been found a mere ten meters from the school. The man on the left holding the jump rope is JMAS project leader Koji Ideta. (Right) The market attracting people and goods, which has become the center of the village of Reak Smey Sangha since demining was completed.

Pursuing Future Development

The project team succeeded in completing dangerous civil engineering work using a demining machine and construction equipment without a single accident. This achievement brought confidence to the local residents while heightening the motivation of CMAC personnel. The experience and know-how gained through this model project will be utilized in a comparable way in the Angola project now underway by JMAS as well as the reconstruction project which began in the village of Kilo in Battambang District, Cambodia early in the summer of 2009.

 

Komatsu will continue to provide support to areas where reconstruction has come to a halt due to the impacts of landmines, making them safe and then assisting in their development.

Masahiro Sakane, Chairman of the Board of Komatsu, participated in the ceremony to commemorate the completion of the project.

Overview of Komatsu's Social Contributions in Anti-personnel Landmine Removal to Date