MAG has been operational in Batticaloa(1) since 2003, assisting the Sri Lankan government in meeting the target of a country (or at least the government-controlled areas) free from the impact of mines by the end of 2009.
So far this year, MAG has searched and cleared 2,239,300 square metres of land, through a combination of manual and mechanical techniques, and safely removed 10 anti-personnel mines and 22 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO)(2).
These activities enables the safe return of communities displaced (3) across the island due to war and the 2004 tsunami.
MAG's work also helps government authorities and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) working to reconstruct affected areas, which were previously unable to access the land due to the threats posed by the remnants of conflict.
Additionally, MAG clears key cultural and community sites, such as temples and places of worship, schools and land for grazing and agriculture.
MAG Sri Lanka's work consists of manual clearance, mechanical clearance and Community Liaison activities.
Mine Action Teams (MATs) use the raking method (pictured left) to clear land manually and undertake 'Battle Area Clearance'.
Two teams use 'Bozena B4' mechanical flails (pictured below) prepare the ground for the MATs. This equipment is remote-controlled, with an operator and supervisor standing outside of the danger area.
MAG Community Liaison teams meet with local communities, humanitarian agencies and other relevant parties, to collect and circulate information about the mine threat in contaminated areas.
Through data gathering, provision of safety briefings (pictured above left) and surveys, the teams increase the safety of people living and working in mine affected regions.
MAG's activities in Sri Lanka, January-September 2008
- Search and clearance of 2,239,300 square metres of land, through a combination of manual and mechanical techniques.
- Removal of 10 anti-personnel mines and 22 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO). The mines were destroyed and the UXO handed over to the Sri Lankan Army for destruction. The destruction was witnessed by MAG staff.
- Survey of 46 Dangerous Areas.
- Reached 31,000 individuals with safety briefings and other Community Liaison activities.
MAG Sri Lanka's Mine Action Teams are currently funded entirely by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, US Department of State under an emergency funding scheme; MAG's mechanical capacity is currently funded by a contribution from the Japanese government; the Community Liaison teams are currently funded by MAG America and Unicorn Grocery.
(1) Batticaloa was identified in 2006 as having the highest number of casualties from remnants of conflict accidents in the country by the International Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA);
(2) Unexploded ordnance (UXO) refers to unexploded weapons such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades;
(3) There were 460,000 IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Sri Lanka in August 2007, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre]