By agreement with the Lebanese Government's Higher Relief Commission, the UN information sharing committee and the Humanitarian Information Center (HIC), UNJLC began producing maps which corresponded to these requirements as of August 7th, two weeks into the operation. The focus of these maps was initially on the south, with each map showing one caza or district, since this was largely how organisations were breaking down their operational areas. They were made in A3 format for easy use while driving. The first maps, released on August 18th, showed the southernmost cazas of Tyre, Bent Jbail and Marjayoun and the series was rapidly expanded to 28 map sheets covering all of Lebanon. By August 31st, the whole series had been updated five times to include new information.
UNJLC's partners VVAF had already worked with the mine action community and had also carried out a landmine impact survey in Lebanon in 2002-2003. This equipped UNJLC's GIS team with a thorough knowledge of existing threats and provided for open-door access to information on new threats through the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre South Lebanon (MACC SL). From inception, the series has included all data from MACC SL to show the steadily growing discovery of cluster munitions strike sites, as well as information on existing contamination from the National Demining Office. The maps also show roads cleared by the Mine Action effort.
UNJLC also reached out to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to build a validated list of all damaged transport infrastructure which could be updated as repairs progressed. This relationship resulted in the initial release of a very detailed local road network data set which only existed in UNJLC maps. The maps also carried the locations of damaged bridges provided by ground recce teams, UNFIL observers and satellite imagery information from UNOSAT and the US Government. UNJLC was able to quickly compile information from these sources and use them as a framework to help the Ministry engineers fact check and organise its data. The resulting validation process meant that the fifth revision of the series could then include the current status and repair information on all damaged bridges. The bridges were given numbered symbols and an inserted table listed the name and status of each bridge on the side. New diversions and temporary bridges established to ease transport bottlenecks were also added at this time.
"We had to look at the issue of road maps within the current context in Lebanon," explains the head of UNJLC's GIS section and VVAF Technical Coordinator, Shawn Messick. "We had the data to provide basic maps of communities, villages and road networks. What we then had to do was combine these maps with blockage and hazard information in order to give a product which people could use for everyday road movement, so they had the essential information required to operate under the current conditions.
"There are no other accessible maps available for Lebanon which do all of this. Our Mine Action credentials, prior relationship with MACC SL and the National Demining Office and data diplomacy gave us access to the data we needed, and enabled us to produce maps which could help everyone working in these areas stay safe and warn them of potential bottlenecks. Hazards to Movement maps have become a staple GIS product in UNJLC's recent operations and have consistently generated very positive responses from its users. I'm hoping we can continue to develop and refine our capacity within this kind of inter-organizational cooperation."
The maps have been widely used by all actors in the humanitarian operation including agencies, NGOs and donors. The Lebanese Ministry of Transport and Public Works employed them on a consistent basis and gave them to all visiting donors and delegations. Once the series was underway, recce missions were always sent out with a copy, and some actively participated in making sure the information was up to date. The Swedish Rescue Services Agency (SRSA), in particular, kept in close contact with UNJLC to inform of all changes in information, such as roads blocked by debris and other constraints or clearances.
The majority of the international, primary and secondary road network has now been cleared of unexploded munitions and are safe to travel, however some local roads remain blocked by explosive hazards and the number of identified cluster bomb sites is increasing daily. The maps also originally showed all reported locations where roads had been cratered or otherwise damaged. The Lebanese civilian and military authorities made very fast temporary repairs, backfilling the craters and restoring trafficability, and these constraints were subsequently removed from the maps. However, these repairs will fall apart in the winter rains. These combined facts mean that the situation on the ground continues to change, and the series will therefore continue to be updated for as long as UNJLC remains on the ground.