‘Help Vanni demining’ plea to UN agencies

[TamilNet, Saturday, 01 June 2002, 12:06 GMT]
The demining effort in the Vanni is suffering from limited resources and is in desperate need of international assistance, a meeting of local and international non-governmental organisations, including UN agencies, was told by the coordinator of efforts in the region last week .

“The de-mining in the Vanni region is currently underway with very limited resources. The project needs the help of many nations. It is time for action, not talk,” Mr. Yogan, head of the Vanni de-mining project team, said.

The meeting in Kilinocchi was to provide a monthly update on the de-mining efforts to representatives from United Nations organizations. It was held at the headquarters of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, which is the sole donor towards the demining effort.

Even in the current climate of ceasefire, speedily resettling people in the Vanni is fraught with danger as large areas, including villages, paddy fields, etc. having been heavily mined during the conflict, the UN representatives were told at the function.

The estimated 1.4 million pieces of live ammunition, including 86,700 anti-personnel mines, remaining in territory formerly controlled by the Sri Lanka Army are taking a long time to clear due to the lack of equipment and funding, Mr. Yogan reiterated.

Despite rudimentary hand-held tools and without protective equipment, the Vanni de-mining volunteers have successfully cleared several areas in the last six months. In this function, Mr. Yogan gave official certificates of clearance to 26 villages and 3 ponds that have been completely de-mined in the region.

The official certification that landmines, booby traps, etc. have been removed in many areas including, Ananthapuram, Uthayanagar East and West, Vivekananda Nagar, etc. in Kilinochi, and Kulavisuttan, AayiladySinna Poovarasankulam, Nedunkerny, etc in the Vanni.

Last month the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that “conditions in Sri Lanka are not yet conducive to promote or facilitate large-scale, organised [displaced people’s] return or repatriation of refugees.”

Its report said that major concerns remain regarding the risk of landmines and unexploded ordinance in both actual and potential areas of return.

 

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