Germany

Mine Action

Last updated: 16 July 2017

Contaminated by: Unexploded ordnance (UXO) and suspected cluster munition remnants in former military training areas.

Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 4 deadline: 1 August 2020
(Unclear whether on track to meet deadline)

Summary

The Federal Republic of Germany has 11km2 of area suspected to contain cluster munition remnants at a former Soviet military training area at Wittstock, Brandenburg, in former East Germany. In September 2015, Germany reported having carried out “extensive” non-technical and technical survey.[1] Due to the dense vegetation in the contaminated area, Germany opted to burn the area in sections, to ensure an unobstructed view of the natural ground service. Therefore in 2016, it created a fire protection system, and in early 2017 the burning of vegetation and clearance of the suspected hazardous area commenced.

Contamination

As of April 2017, Germany had 11km2 of area suspected to contain cluster munition remnants at a former Soviet military training area at Wittstock, Brandenburg, in former East Germany.[2] The Soviet-era ShOAB-0.5 submunitions contaminating Wittstock result from testing of the weapon in 1952–1993.[3] The area is highly contaminated with various kinds of explosive ordnance, and “especially ordnance with considerable explosive power,” as well as scrap metal.[4] The area is completely perimeter-marked with warning signs, and an official directive, effective 1 July 2011, has been issued by the responsible regulatory and supervisor authority, constraining access to the area.[5] 

In its initial Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 transparency report, submitted in January 2011, Germany declared having no areas confirmed or suspected to contain cluster munition remnants.[6] In June 2011, Germany declared that the area at Wittstock was suspected to contain cluster munition remnants, which were “principally found within the confines of a target range” located at the southern end of the training area.[7]

From 2011 to early 2014, suspected cluster munition contamination was reported to total 4km2.[8] In August 2014, Germany reported that the suspected hazardous area (SHA) was actually 11km2.[9] an increase ascribed to the discovery of submunitions during non-technical survey across a greater area than previously reported.[10]

Program Management

In early October 2011, ownership of the Wittstock former training range was transferred from the military to the federal government authority in charge of real estate, Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (BImA).

Beginning in 2012, BImA implemented a risk education program in collaboration with local authorities based on a “danger prevention plan,” described as a “crucial prerequisite” for further technical survey of the area.[11] The area is completely perimeter-marked with warning signs, and an official directive, effective 1 July 2011, has been issued by the responsible regulatory and supervisor authority, constraining access to the area.[12]

Once safely released, the site is due to remain part of a “nature protection area” in the Kyritz-Ruppiner-Heide, managed by BImA as part of the Europa NATURA 2000 site, under the European Union (EU) Habitats Directive.[13]

Land Release

No land was released by survey or clearance in 2016.

Survey of the area of suspected cluster munition contamination was completed in 2015, and in 2016 Germany undertook preparations for cluster munition clearance. Clearance began in March 2017.[14] 

Survey in 2015 

In September 2015, Germany reported having carried out “extensive” non-technical and technical survey.[15] During preparation of the technical survey in 2015, four ShOAB-0.5 submunitions were cleared.[16] Site and “geophysical investigation” revealed strong evidence that cluster munition contamination existed only on the surface.[17] Germany subsequently confirmed that all required survey had been completed in 2015, and the results had formed the basis for the subsequent preparatory work in 2016.[18] 

Clearance in 2015–2016

In September 2015, Germany reported that following non-technical and technical survey, 46km of affected roads had been “cleared” in order to guarantee safe access to the area.[19] Despite a request for clarification, Germany did not confirm if the 46km of affected road was actually released by clearance, as reported, or was in fact released by survey, which seems more probable. Germany also did not confirm the number and type of UXO discovered and destroyed during this process.

In September 2015, Germany reported that it was in the process of planning the final steps to clear the area of cluster munitions, and that it would commence clearance in the first quarter of 2016.[20]

Due to the dense vegetation in the contaminated area, Germany opted to burn the area in sections, to ensure an unobstructed view of the natural ground surface, where submunitions will be detected by visual and “geophysical means.”[21] In July 2016, Germany reported it was “making progress with the fire protection system and everything [was] so far working as planned.”[22] Preparation of the site-wide fire protection system was implemented by remote-controlled caterpillar machinery operated by a team of five explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel (one senior EOD technician and four machinery operators/surveyors). This was completed in 2016, with the exception of a small forest area on the eastern edge of the SHA.[23] During this process, an additional five ShOAB-0.5 submunitions were destroyed.[24]

Progress in 2017

As envisaged in its Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 transparency report for 2015,[25] after preparing for cluster munition clearance in 2016 by creating the fire protection system and burning of vegetation, clearance of the SHA started in early 2017. Some 2km2 of heathland was burned in mid-March 2017, with clearance operations beginning later the same month.[26] Clearance operations in 2017 are intended to clear the 2km2 area prepared for clearance, in addition to some of the forest on the eastern edge of the SHA that could not be burned as part of the fire protection system.[27]

Article 4 Compliance

Under Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Germany is required to destroy all cluster munitions in areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 August 2020. It is unclear whether Germany is on track to meet this deadline.

Germany currently plans to complete clearance operations in early 2020. It does not expect any personal, technical, or financial obstacles to clearance. However, favorable meteorological conditions are necessary for operations, and environmental protection laws limit the burning periods. According to Germany, these two factors could lead to unplanned delays.[28] Given the tight timetable, such delays could prevent Germany from meeting its Article 4 deadline of 1 August 2020.[29]

According to Germany’s Article 7 report for 2016, the cost of the “site wide fire-protection system” instituted in 2016 by remote-controlled caterpillar machinery, stood at €600,000.[30]

 

 

The Monitor acknowledges the contributions of the Mine Action Review (www.mineactionreview.org), which has conducted the mine action research in 2017, including on survey and clearance, and shared all its resulting landmine and cluster munition reports with the Monitor. The Monitor is responsible for the findings presented online and in its print publications.

 


[1] Statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015.

[2] Email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 19 April 2017; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F.

[3] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F; and statement of Germany, High-Level Segment, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015.

[4] Statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015.

[5] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form G, 4 April 2012; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form F (for calendar year 2014), 20 April 2015.

[6] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2010), Form F.

[7] Statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Clearance and Risk Reduction Session, Geneva, 28 June 2011.

[8] Ibid.; and statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions Third Meeting of States Parties, Oslo, 13 September 2012; Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2012), Form F; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2013), Form F.

[9] Email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 4 August 2014.

[10] Statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015.

[11] Statement of Germany, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 23 May 2012.

[12] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form G, 4 April 2012; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2014), Form F, 20 April 2015.

[13] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 15 April 2013, p. 7; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2015), Form F.

[14] Email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 19 April 2017; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F.

[15] Statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015.

[16] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2015), Form F.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 19 April 2017.

[19] Statement of Germany, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2015), Form F.

[22] Email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 14 July 2016.

[23] Ibid., 19 April 2017; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F.

[24] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F; and email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 14 June 2017.

[25] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2015), Form F.

[26] Emails from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 19 April 2017, and 13 June 2017; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F.

[27] Email from official from the Desk for Conventional Arms Control, German Federal Foreign Office, 19 April 2017.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form F.