Sri Lanka declares first district safe from landmines, thanks to work by MAG deminers
21 June 2017: The first of Sri Lanka’s mine-affected districts has been declared safe from landmines thanks to the work of demining teams from the Mines Advisory Group (MAG).
MAG has been working along side the Humanitarian Demining Unit of the Sri Lankan Army and coordinated by the Sri Lankan Government.
In the wake of the country’s devastating civil war, which ended in 2009, Batticaloa District is the first to be classified as “residual risk”.
The occasion was marked by a ceremony overlooking Batticaloa Fort attended by representatives from the Government of Sri Lanka, the US Embassy, the British High Commission, the Canadian High Commission, the Australian High Commission and the Japanese Embassy is an important step on the road to achieving a Landmine Free 2025.
Alistair Moir, MAG Country Director, Sri Lanka, said: "MAG is extremely proud to assist Sri Lanka in removing these indiscriminate weapons which continue to hinder wider development activities taking place long after the end of hostilities. Last year alone MAG cleared more than 10,000 landmines in Sri Lanka – each of which could have taken a life.
“Enabling people to lead normal lives free from the fear of the legacies of war is crucial to turning lives and livelihoods around. We are working hard in Sri Lanka and across the world to make Landmine Free 2025 a reality”.
Landmine Free 2025 is a joint campaign by MAG and The Halo Trust – the two leading mine action charities globally – to realise their shared vision of ridding the world of landmines by 2025, freeing more than 60 million people from fear
MAG has been working to make Sri Lanka safe since 2002. Recent efforts in Batticaloa District over the last ten months have led to 246,266 square metres of land being made safe for civilian use and seen the destruction of more than 400 anti-personnel mines benefitting 4,488 people.
Since 2009, MAG has removed and destroyed more than 40,000 mines and unexploded bombs in Sri Lanka, directly helping over 50,000 people and made a total of more than 34 square kilometres of land in the northern and eastern provinces safe for civilian use.
However, more work still needs to be done. With the right level of support Sri Lanka’s landmine contamination could be cleared in the next three years. MAG demining teams make land safe for use, training and employing local people, including women, to keep valuable skills and wages in their communities.
Making areas of Sri Lanka safe from landmines is an important part of the post-war reconciliation efforts and essential to cementing sustainable peace.
MAG would like to thank all of their donors, including the US State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal, the US Department of Defense HD R&D Program and Abatement and the Governments of Australia, Canada and Japan for their support. Now an end is in sight. With international support, Sri Lanka can reach its goal of becoming mine impact-free by 2020.
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