Dec. 4 - Could a ball made of bamboo and biodegradable plastic detonate deadly landmines? Afghan designer Massoud Hassani says his device can do just that, despite the scepticism of some experts. With this week's meeting of signatory countries to the Mine Ban Treaty taking place in Geneva, Hassani hopes to grab the attention of the world's decision makers and gain funding for his device. Jim Drury has more.
You might think brothers Massoud and Mahmud Hassani are working on a modern art installation. In fact they're fitting a 40 dollar landmine detonating device. The Afghan siblings say Mine Kafon - which means Mine Detector in the Dari language - offers a low-cost solution to deactivating deadly mines hidden in the ground in war zones. (Natsot - boom) They've produced dozens of the devices, made almost entirely from bamboo and biodegradable plastics. Weighing 70 kilograms, Mine Kafon is propelled by the wind, but is large and heavy enough to detonate the explosives beneath it, according to chief designer Massoud. SOUNDBITE (English) MASSOUD HASSANI, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SAYING: "Every foot has a circular form of a frisbee, so it's kind of catching the wind from inside. There are about 170 feet with aerodynamic shapes to catch the wind, so that's why it's very easy moving and at the same time it's light enough to move around and also heavy enough to detonate landmines." Mine Kafon was inspired by rudimentary toys the brothers made themselves in their Afghan childhood. But this one, which started out as Massoud Hassani's graduation project at Holland's Eindhoven University, is far more hi-tech. SOUNDBITE (English) MASSOUD HASSANI, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SAYING: "Every Mine Kafon has a GPS chip inside it, because it's moving wind-powered, you don't know where it is going and where it was, so now it is mapping the route where it was and where it's going, so that GPS chip inside the ball is adding all the information to the website or to the application on your phone." Massoud says that after explosions the core stays intact, and the GPS stores important data like an airplane's black box. Each device can withstand four explosions before too many lost legs render it ineffective. Last summer the Dutch military helped test the device in the Moroccan desert, but declared Mine Kafon unsuitable in its present design. Critics worry about its apparent dependence on random wind gusts. Estimates suggest there are 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground and another 250 million stockpiled in at least 100 countries. The brothers want to raise $100,000 to improve the design of Mine Kafon, and ultimately help reduce the war zone death toll.