Impressive gains made in mine clearance in N-E, says Government

International Day for Mine Awareness marked on April 4
By Mirudhula Thambiah

One thousand nine hundred and thirty six square kilometres of land in the North and East of Sri Lanka have been cleared of mines and only 124 square kilometres remain to be cleared, National Mine Action Centre Director Monty Ranatunga said at a news brieing to mark International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance.

It is estimated the entire mine infested areas will be totally cleared by 2020. A Government media statement states that Sri Lanka began its humanitarian de-mining programme in 2002 and has made impressive progress up to date. Notably during the last stages of the conflict in 2009 more than 300,000 people were displaced but now most of them have been resettled with approximately 6,000 remaining in camps as at the beginning of this year.It further states that since 2009 areas made uninhabitable due to landmines and explosive remnants had been cleared.

This including paddy land (101,827 hectares), water bodies (29,999 hectares), ‘A’ class roads (538km), other roads over 1,500km and railway track beds (263km). It also said this progress was mainly due to the high priority given by the government of Sri Lanka with continued technical and financial support and the support of the international community, in the mine action programme.

In December 2011, 17 incidents with 24 civilians victims of landmine and explosive remnants of war were recorded which compared to 27 incidents with 47 casualties in 2010. According to UNICEF Sri Lanka has always reported fewer incidents each year, the statement said.

Boats could set out to sea for the rich fishing grounds from the whole north western coast after the completion of mine removal and explosive remnants of war from the area, it said. According to Government reports, land mine clearance has been completed on the A32 main highway from Mannar to Vellankulam and on the A12 and A5 roads.

The eastern seaboard was opened for tourism after the completion of mine clearance in the Eastern Province. Also access was secured to two most well known places of religious worship - Madhu Church and the Thiruketheeswaram Hindu temple.

The National Mine Action Programme of Sri Lanka which was initiated in 2002 assisted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), INGOs, NGOs and several donor countries.

In 2009 the Cabinet officially approved the setting up of the National Mine Action Centre under the Ministry of Economic Development which has led to the gradual takeover by the Ministry of full responsibility for the coordination of mine action in Sri Lanka. At present there are nine de-mining organizations, including the Sri Lanka Army Humanitarian De-mining Unit, working in Sri Lanka.

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