As MINUSMA's drawdown deadline of December 31, 2023, approaches, rigorous environmental assessments have become standard practice at all camps before they are restituted to the Malian state. The most recent assessment at the Menaka camp underscores this commitment.
On 22 August, a thorough environmental assessment was conducted at MINUSMA's Menaka camp, located in the Menaka region, northeastern part of Mali. A joint assessment team, composed of both Malian experts and MINUSMA representatives, walked the grounds of MINUSMA's Menaka camp with a keen eye for any environmental imprint left by the Mission's operations. Their intention? To understand and, if necessary, remedy any environmental impact.
This visit was organized in line with MINUSMA's planned withdrawal from Menaka by the end of August 2023, in accordance with the guidelines established by the United Nations for environmental clearance, as well as the protocols for the transfer of Mission sites. These measures are in line with the environmental policy of the UN Department of Operations Support, which emphasizes the responsibility of field missions to reduce the overall environmental footprint of missions in accordance with the principles of "do no harm" and environmental efficiency.
The Malian team, familiar with the unique environmental challenges of the region, acknowledged MINUSMA's efforts in environmental management. Such an outcome is the result of regular environmental inspections carried out since the beginning of the mission and corrective measures implemented on an ongoing basis, ensuring continuous monitoring, early response and overall reduction of environmental impacts.
Significant improvements have been made to the infrastructure of the Menaka camp, particularly with the installation of four operational boreholes. These efforts, along with tree-planting initiatives and the preservation of local groves, underscore MINUSMA's commitment to the environmental well-being of Menaka.
The camp's water systems stood out. The Malian team was pleased with the water purification and wastewater treatment systems. These key systems will be handed over to the Malian government, ensuring that Menaka's residents will continue to benefit after MINUSMA's departure.
It's important to note that these environmental assessments are not limited to Menaka. Camps that have already vacated, such as Ogossagou, Goundam, and Ber, have undergone similar assessments. To support these efforts, a dedicated working group composed of both MINUSMA and Malian experts has been established to ensure environmental assessments and a conscientious footprint as the Mission proceeds with its drawdown plans.
When MINUSMA withdraws its personnel and equipment from a camp, it takes steps to ensure that the camp is left in a safe and functioning condition. This includes removing any hazardous chemicals or waste. MINUSMA makes every effort to complete the environmental clean-up within the available time and capacity. Prior to the camp being officially restituted to the Malian state, a final joint environmental site inspection is conducted with representatives from the Ministry of Environment. In addition, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) conducts a "battle area survey" to ensure that no explosives have been left behind. The results of this survey are included in the documents that are signed by the authorities to officially mark the handover of the camp.