Mine-affected Batticaloa district declared safe from landmines    

The formal declaration to mark ‘The First Mine-Affected District of Sri Lanka Reaching a Level of Residual Risk’ after the Sri Lanka Army – Humanitarian De-mining Unit (SLA-HDU), together with other International Non Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), have succeeded in clearing minefields in Batticaloa, was signed and handed by stakeholders during a ceremony at the Batticaloa District Secretariat, the Army media unit said today.

The SLA – HDU was able to clear a mine – affected area of 312,111,499 Sq m, which makes up 83% from the Confirmed Hazardous Area (CHA), amounting to 377,026,951 Sq m in area. Similarly, the other INGO and NGO stakeholders, including ‘MAG’, ‘Halo Trust’, ‘FSD’, ‘SARVATRA’, ‘Horizon’, ‘DDG’, ‘DASH’ and ‘SHARP’ who joined the de-mining drive in 2009 for the ‘District by District’ programme in Batticaloa, were able to clear a total of 17% of the CHA, mentioned above.

The ceremony at the Batticaloa District Secretariat premises, graced by Swaminathan, Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs and the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap, witnessed Brigadier Amith Seneviratne, Engineer Brigade Commander, representing the Commander of the Army, delivering the SLA-HDU confirmation to the District Secretary for Batticaloa in the presence of the officials of the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) while other stakeholders, too followed suit.

The SLA-HDU, which is the most leading de-mining organization, operational in Sri Lanka with a contingent of 450 Army de-miners who are capable of executing operations, to suit internationally-accepted three different methods, i.e Manual, Mechanical and Mine Detection Dog (MDD), is continuing its national role under the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) of the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs.

During a ceremony on Wednesday (21), the HDU de-miners using the Manual and MDD methods staged a live demonstration and the INGO de-miner, MAG also showcased a demonstration before the day’s attendees at Batticaloa.

Swaminathan, Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, State Minister of Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Atul Keshap, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, James Dauris, British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and Maldives, Diplomatic envoys from Canada, Japan and Australia, Chief Minister for Eastern Province, Ministry Secretaries, District Secretary for Batticaloa and representatives of INGOs and NGOs, Army Officers and a group of invitees, were present during the ceremony at Batticaloa.

With the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009, Sri Lanka Army de-miners as the only stakeholders who could take up this challenge and unearth mines/other unexploded ordnance (UXO), laid by LTTE terrorists in previous LTTE dominated areas, began the de-mining project in earnest.

Army de-miners have been involved in clearance of minefields in the country since the year 2002. (Colombo Gazette)

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