Lika-Senj Clears Mine Contaminated Land for OPGs to Grow Food

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Lidija Kiseljak/ writes on the 21st of August, 2020 in the finals of the selection for the best county project, in the Contribution to the local community category, Lika-Senj County entered with the project of demining agricultural land, worth a total of 223 million kuna, and the third phase of the project phase amounts to 87.4 million kuna.

The project was implemented in three phases, over three years, from 2016 to 2018, and is funded by the Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Croatia, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, Submeasure 5.2. “Support for investments in the reconstruction of agricultural land and production potential damaged by natural disasters, adverse climatic events and catastrophic events”, Operation “Demining of agricultural land” and funds from the Croatian Mine Action Centre (2018).

Public procurement

Back in May 2015, Lika-Senj County applied for the tender issued by the Agency for Payments in Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development for the award of support from the Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Croatia for the period 2014-2020. for a demining project of agricultural land in the county. In June 2015, the decision on the eligibility of applications for support from the agency was received, after which an open public procurement procedure was launched.

During 2016 and 2017, about 18.1 km2 of agricultural land in Lika-Senj County was demined, and the total value of the work performed amounted to a massive 130 million kuna. The works continued throughout 2018 on an area of ​​8.4 km2, and the value of the works stood at 87.4 million kuna. The project was completed back in 2019, and the implementation of this project demined a total of 26,511,141 m2 of agricultural land, or over 99 percent of  the agricultural land contaminated with mines across Lika-Senj County.

Through the EAFRD in 2016 in Lika-Senj County, support in the amount of 46,051,547.00 kuna was granted for the demining of mine-contaminated agricultural land in the municipalities of Perusic and Donji Lapac, and the towns of Otocac and Perusic, covering a total area of ​​6.8 square kilometres.

Funds in the total amount of 88,214,482.29 kuna during 2017 were directed to the demining of agricultural areas covering 11,253,465 square metres within the county in the settlements of Agabe and Canak, in the area of ​​Tromedja and Bliznica, in the settlement of Donji Vaganac, in the area of ​​Obljajac and in the settlements of Novoselija and Veljun, Barlete and Bilaj, and agricultural areas between the settlements of Licki Ribnik and Ornice.

Within the county, there is still 135 km2 of mine suspected area, which is 30 percent of the total mine suspected area in the entire territory of the Republic of Croatia. The largest part of the mine suspected area in the county, or 90 percent of it, consisted of forested areas, while agricultural areas accounted for about 10 percent of it. At the end of the project, a mere 1 percent of the area of ​​formerly mine contaminated agricultural land remained demined.

The final realisation of this project has led to the improvement of general living conditions and security in the area, as well as economic and social benefits in formerly war-affected areas, with the opening up of new opportunities for rural development and infrastructure. Given that these areas have been intact for more than 25 years, the possibility of applying organic agricultural production has been created. As Lika-Senj prefect Darko Milinovic emphasised in 2018, a total of 223 million kuna was spent on the project through three phases, and the project is important for the safety of citizens, forest exploitation, agricultural development and rural tourism.

“We expect that the completion of the Agricultural Land Demining Project, with the use of measures from the Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Croatia, will further encourage the development of agricultural production in the county,” said Prefect Milinovic.

Today, in the part of Lika-Senj County that was included in the demining programme of the agricultural land, about 70 percent of the county’s family farms are located – about 3,400 of them. It is evident that there are large natural resources in this county which should be developed. Thus, today, Lika-Senj County with its 72,500 registered sheep is the second largest county in terms of the number of sheep in the Republic of Croatia (most of the country’s sheep are otherwise bred in Zadar County – 95,700 of them). In addition, in the last four years alone, a significant increase in the number of cattle, of as much as 62 percent, has been recorded, which is proof that the development of agricultural production in Lika-Senj County is based on the development of livestock.

In the public procurement procedure, search and demining activities in Lika-Senj County in 2016 were awarded to the company Istrazivac d.o.o. from Nustar, which was introduced at the end of February 2016 in the search and demining business at the locations of Licki Ribnik, Ornice, Novo Selo Bilajsko and Divoselo.

A total of thirteen partner companies with 150 deminers, ten machines and five pairs of dogs were engaged at the site. The work was done throughout the duration of the project, seven days a week. In the second phase of the project, five Croatian companies were involved with their deminers and machines, and in the third phase, during 2018, a total of thirteen demining contracts were concluded with thirteen different contractors, each of which had a large number of subcontractors of their own.

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