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UN praises de-mining progress

National Mine Action Centre says removal could finish this year

De-miners at work in a former conflict area De-miners at work in a former conflict area
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • August 17, 2012
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A UN spokesman has praised Sri Lanka's progress in removing landmines from former war-torn areas.

“It has achieved excellent results. Sri Lanka may complete the process soon,” said Subine Nandy, the UN's resident representative, at a progress review in Colombo on Tuesday.

Nandy attributed the achievement to the efficient coordination of efforts made by several different bodies.

The country is now in its third year of peace after government forces defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009. But the presence of landmines, buried in villages, forests and agricultural lands, remains a deadly threat.

According to the Ministry of Defense, almost half a million anti-personnel mines, 1,395 anti-tank mines and nearly 400,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance had been recovered as of June 2012.

Removal work is being carried out by the humanitarian unit of the Sri Lankan army alongside organizations such as the Danish De-mining Group, the India Sarvatra Group, Horizon Group, HALO Trust, the Mines Advisory Group and the Swiss Foundation for De-mining.

Around 3,600 people have been deployed for the high risk de-mining process. Some of them are war widows that have been trained for the task.

“Everything my family had was destroyed in the war," said one of them. "I have taken this risky job to support the family. There was no other option if we want to survive.”

Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa told a recent international seminar for military officials: “Mines had been laid over 5,000 sqare kilometers of land and de-mining such a vast area was a very difficult challenge.”

Approximately 126 sq km of land remains to be cleared. The National Mine Action Centre expects completion by the end of this year.

But some would like to see faster progress. Venerable Meegashajadure Sirivimala Thero, a senior Buddhist monk, pointed out that many religious centers in war-ravaged areas have still not re-opened.

“The military won't allow people in until the land has been cleared,” he said.

Mano Ganeshan, a Tamil politician and advocate for displaced people, said that many have been in refugee camps for years because of delays in the de-mining process.

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