De-mining programme declared a ‘great success’

By Priyath Wijewardena

A total of 432 square kilometres of land in the North and the East has been cleared of mines in the 23 months between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2010, according to United Nations Senior Co-ordination Officer, Colombo, Tom Hockley.Since the end of the war in May 2009, the UN and several countries and organisations have been assisting in the country’s de-mining programme. Country and organisational representatives expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved, and have described the programme as a “great success.”

The UN has assisted in upgrading systems and working closely with government groups overseeing de-mining activities.

Norway’s role in de-mining in Sri Lanka goes back to 2003. According to Edle Hamre, Counsellor, Developmental Preparation of the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, said the Norwegian government has given a total of Rs. 1 billion between 2003 and 2010 for de-mining work, extending its assistance through a number of non-government organisations (NGOs).

Ms. Hamre said the success of the programme was based on the extent of land cleared and certified for re-settlement and use. The Norwegian government has been working through NGOs and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), including Halo Trust, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, the Milinda Moragoda Institute for People’s Empowerment (MMIPE), and two Indian NGOs, Sarvatra and Horizon.

The US has given more than US$10 million for de-mining operations, mainly in the North. The US assistance has come in the form of equipment, specialised training of Sri Lanka Army de-mining units, and funding for international and domestic NGOs working closely with the Sri Lankan government.
The US has been working with the Halo ALO Trust, Mine Action Group (MAG), Danish De-mining and the Swiss De-Mining Federation.

The Japanese government has assisted in the de-mining through various organisations. A spokesperson for the Japanese Embassy’s Economic Co-operation Section said the Japanese government extended aid for the dual purpose of consolidating peace and contributing to long-term development.

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