- Progress depends heavily on de-mining in North and East
By Maryam Azwer
The government has resettled 10,075 IDPs between July 1 and 22, Military Spokesperson Ubaya Medawala said.
UNDP Senior Programme Manager for Mine Action, Wuria Karadaghy told The Sunday Leader that mine clearance remains one of the most important aspects with regard to resettlement.
“The first step is to remove mines from the resettlement area, so that people can return to their homes,” he said, explaining that the next step would involve making it possible for them to carry on with their livelihoods.
He went on to say that since most of the IDPs were fishermen, or farmers, in order to return to their jobs, agricultural land in the area, too, must be cleared of landmines.
De-mining of such land has only just begun, said Karadaghy.
Meanwhile, Military Spokesperson Brigadier Ubaya Medawala stated, “De-mining is progressing well, but what needs to be understood is that this is a very tedious process; land has to be cleared inch by inch.”
The eastern part of A9, where the last battle against the LTTE took place, remains heavily contaminated, with the Mullaitivu area being most critical, said Karadaghy. He also said that since the end of the war, there have been 6-7 civilian deaths. However, he also pointed out that accidents were now limited – “We were expecting worse.”
Karadaghy further noted that there could be no complete guarantee that the areas would be entirely clear of mines. “There will always be a risk factor, which we need to prevent and avoid. This depends on the capacity of Mine Risk Education (MRE).”
MRE, Karadaghy notes, remains a responsibility of all stakeholders, and should be paid attention to by the Ministry of Education in particular. The army and de-mining agencies have managed to secure sufficient land to bring down the number of IDPs in camps from 300,000 to 36,110, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Cabinet last week approved the setting up of a National Mine Action Centre under the Ministry of Economic Development, which is to implement a humanitarian de-mining programme.