|De-mining reaches intense
Agencies face threat of funds drying up
The recent death of a French de-miner in Northern
Sri Lanka highlights the ongoing threat of landmines
in preventing the safe return of tens of thousands
Dominique Morin, who worked for the Swiss Foundation
for Mine Action, was killed on May 10 when a device
he was handling exploded in the village of
Kakkayankulam West, in Eastern Mannar District.
“The risk is still there. We need to do more,” Nigel
Robinson, Country Programme Manager for the NGO told
IRIN in Colombo.
But for many of the eight NGOs on the ground, as
well as the Sri Lankan Army, the future is
uncertain, with funds for this year drying up.
“The de-mining operators have expanded their
capacity enormously in the North,” said Douglas Keh,
Country Director for the UN Development Programme
(UNDP), which is coordinating work between de-mining
agencies and the government.
“Unfortunately, at the moment most operators have
funding secured only until July/August. It is very
important that we have continued donor support for
mine clearance work, so the clearance of residential
and livelihood areas will be able to continue at its
At least US$9 million is needed to continue
operations through this year alone, with estimates
suggesting it could take as long as 20 years to
clear all known contaminated areas.
According to Major General Udaya Nanayakkara, who
heads the Engineering Corps of the Sri Lanka Army
involved in the de-mining, between the end of the
war in May 2009 and April 2010 at least 1,000 sqkm
of land had been surveyed or cleared of mines and
Recently, he told the press that de-mining efforts
would likely slow as de-miners moved into areas
where fighting from the decades-long conflict
between government forces and the now defeated
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was more
Although most residential areas and the roads in
the Wanni – an area including Kilinochchi,
Mullaithivu, Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya Districts –
have been de-mined, as civilian activity increases,
the risk of injury from mines and other devices
remains in those areas not yet cleared.
In January, a 10-year-old boy was injured while
collecting wood to build a fence in Kilinochchi
District, while two children were killed in
Colombuthurai in Jaffna District when a device
The presence of landmines continues to prove a major
deterrent for the safe return of thousands of
displaced wishing to go home.
“The continuation of the de-mining work in the
North is vital as people are moving back to their
home villages, and need to be able to resume their
livelihoods and normal lives,” UNDP’s Keh said.
“Livelihood areas such as paddy fields or land used
to collect firewood need to be cleared as soon as
Although more than 200,000 Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs) have returned to their villages or
are living with host families, more than 70,000
remain in government camps outside the town of
Vavuniya, the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports.
According to the mine action database maintained by
UNDP’s district mine action offices, as of May 1,
2010, approximately 482 sqkm of the Wanni remain
contaminated by landmines and other unexploded