Ancient monasteries cleared of explosives

The HALO Trust has cleared two sites of major historical interest in south-eastern Georgia.

The sixth-century monasteries of Ioane Natlismcemeli and David Gareji were incorporated into a large military training area during the Soviet era, leaving thousands of explosive remnants of war scattered around the buildings and their surroundings. Since Georgian independence, the Georgian Church has been restoring the monasteries as centres of religious and cultural importance. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists now visit the sites each year.

More than 8000 explosive items, including 8 cluster munitions and 37 aircraft bombs, were removed by HALO, which received funds from the Embassy of Japan, with additional support from the US State Department, to conduct clearance operations. Special precautions were taken by deminers to preserve the historical and structural integrity of the site and prevent further damage and deterioration. More than 100 men and women from the area were recruited and trained as deminers by HALO, providing local livelihoods and facilitating economic development and gender equality.

James Cowan, CEO of The HALO Trust said:

Deadly explosive material from former military activities has no place in Georgia today and I am delighted that HALO’s work has ensured that these beautiful and historically significant monasteries can now be enjoyed in safety by both local people and visitors from around the world.

A ceremony to celebrate the clearance of the monasteries was held in December 2015 close to Ioane Natlismcemeli Monastery at Udabno.