The goal set by the Sri Lanka Government to make the country free of mine impact by 2020 is “very ambitious” but is essential, Ananda Chandrasiri, Director/Programme Manager of the Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony, an NGO working in the area of demining, said.
Answering a question by The Hindu, Chandrasiri, formerly a Brigardier in the Sri Lanka Army, said the Government was pursuing the matter with “utmost efforts and interest”.
Terming the track record of Sri Lanka in demining a “very good story”, he said the problem would be in raising funds. Yet the government is “trying its best” in this regard. Earlier, there were nine organisations engaged in demining whereas only four bodies including the SLA are currently involved, he added.
Chandrasiri signed an agreement with Kenichi Suganuma, Ambassador of Japan, for undertaking a demining project in the Northern and North-Central provinces with the grant of $6,34,860 from the Japanese government.
Bethan Davies, Regional Programme Officer, South and Southeast Asia of the Mines Advisory Group, also entered into a similar pact with the Japanese envoy for securing a grant of $6,03,143 for a mine action project in Mannar district of the Northern Province and landmine survey in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Since 2003, the Japanese government provided $28 million for demining in the North and the East.
According to data available on the website of the Ministry of Defence of Sri Lanka, the extent of mines was 5,000 square km at the end of the civil war in May 2009. Now, it is about 63 sq km, says K.J. Jayaweera, spokesperson of the SLA.
To a query, the Japanese envoy said his country had supported demining projects in Cambodia and Afghanistan. (Colombo Gazette)