Sri Lanka’s Mine Action Needs
Mine action operations are a vital precursor to the return of IDPs. Ten Districts of the Northern, Eastern and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka have significant mine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) contamination: Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Vavuniya*. This not only presents a threat to the safety and welfare of the people living in or returning to these areas but also constrains reconstruction and recovery activities that need to be undertaken in support of these people. Survey and mine clearance operations are concentrated in the North in accordance with the Government’s resettlement plan as outlined in the National Mine Action Strategy that was endorsed by the Ministry of Economic Development in January 2011.
On account of the limited demining capacities in the country when compared to the scope of contamination and in order to keep pace with and support the Government’s resettlement plans priority for minefield clearance is given to the residential areas of villages identified for resettlement. However, as people are returning to their homes, it is essential that areas used for livelihoods as well as lands containing socio-economic infrastructure, are cleared in parallel. The reality is that many of the people resettled in the North are currently living near, if not directly adjacent to, mine/ERW contaminated land. Mines/ERW are blocking access to some residential areas and surrounding land, including gardens and paddy fields, thereby preventing people from re-engaging in livelihood activities or in accessing firewood. Despite the clear demarcations of un-cleared and potentially contaminated land, and sustained MRE efforts, there remains the high risk that returnees will increasingly start foraying into un-cleared lands (especially when they are arable) in order to meet basic livelihood needs. This in turn increases the likelihood of mine/ERW accidents. It is therefore imperative that all high priority areas are cleared as soon as possible.
Sri Lanka’s National Mine Action Programme
On 14 July, 2010, the Cabinet approved the establishment of the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC), which serves as the operational coordination body within the Ministry of Economic Development for mine action activities in the country. The Cabinet’s endorsement of the NMAC is an important step towards complete national ownership and responsibility of the management and coordination of mine action in Sri Lanka. The National Mine Action Programme operates under the leadership of the National Steering Committee on Mine Action (NSCMA), chaired by the Ministry of Economic Development.
UNDP supports Regional Mine Action Offices (RMAOs) in Jaffna and Vavuniya, with sub-offices in Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi. These Offices are located in the District Secretariats and support the Government Agents (GAs) to coordinate and manage mine and ERW clearance and Mine Risk Education. The RMAO staff support the GAs to prioritize and assign survey and mine/ERW clearance tasks, conduct quality assurance/control operations, and organize District Mine Action Steering Committee meetings.
UNICEF, with its NGO partners and a network of community-based volunteers conduct Mine Risk Education in the North and the East. Sri Lanka’s public healthcare system offers medical treatment to mine survivors. In addition survivors can access rehabilitation centers producing artificial limbs and assistive/mobility devices that are operated by national and international organizations providing rehabilitation services.
UNDP Support to Mine Action in Sri Lanka
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Support to Mine Action Project assists the Government of Sri Lanka to coordinate and manage mine action, notably mine and ERW clearance in the country. A project management unit in Colombo supports the Regional Mine Action Offices in Jaffna and Vavuniya with human resources, trainings and technical advisors, and equipment. UNDP also supports the institutional strengthening of the NMAC.
The following national and international agencies are engaging in demining in coordination with the RMAO and NMAC: Danish Demining Group (DDG), Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony (DASH), Fondation Suisse de Deminage (FSD), Halo Trust, Horizon, Milinda Moragoda Institute for People’s Empowerment (MMIPE), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Sarvatra, Sri Lanka Army Humanitarian Demining Unit (SLA-HDU).
UNICEF Support to Mine Risk Education and Victim Assistance
UNICEF supports the Government of Sri Lanka to carry out MRE campaigns in particular by training local partners in the provision of MRE, both through a network of NGOs and through the inclusion of MRE in the national curriculum. UNICEF also promotes Victim Assistance and Advocacy for banning landmines.
The following national and international agencies are engaging in MRE and VA in coordination with UNICEF focal points, the RMAOs and the NMAC:
Caritas Valvuthyam, Community Trust Fund (CTF), Handicap International, Motivation, Rural Development Foundation (RDF), Sarvodaya, Social Organisations for Networking and Development (SOND).
National Mine Action Center
Mr. Monty Ranatunge
Ministry of Economic Development,
3rd Floor, T. B. Jayah Mawatha,
Tel: +94 11 239 2236 / +94 (0) 77 937 1267
Regional Office - Vavuniya
Area of Responsibility: Ampara,
Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Mannar,
Mullaitivu, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee
and Vavuniya Districts
Tel: +94 024 222 4214,
+94 024 222 4303
Mine Action Officer
Mobile: +94 (0)772 858662
Regional Office - Jaffna
Area of Responsibility: Jaffna and Kilinochchi Districts
Tel: +94 021 222 3886/7,
+94 021 321 0313
Mine Action Officer
Mobile: +94 (0) 773 243319
Senior Operations Assistant
UNDP Support to Mine Action Project
Project Management Unit
Tel: +94 11 2596722 ex. 203
Tel: +94 (0)777 420 525
UNICEF Support to MRE and VA
Child Protection Unit
Program Officer - Mine Action
Tel: +9411276855- ext.257
Mobile: +94 (0)77-2354861
*Contamination has also been reported in small areas near the Northern most boundary of Puttalam District