Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mine Menace

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines won the Noble Peace Prize in 1997. There are 80 countries which are affected to some degree by landmines and unexploded ordnance according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. 153 countries have signed the International campaign to Ban Landmines. And at least 40 countries have not signed the treaty to ban landmines.

There are 15,000 people either killed or disabled yearly due to mines. The number people got killed or disabled in early 1990s were 25,000. More than 160 million mines are stockpiled all over the world according to the recent reports. United Nations Mine Action Day was observed for the first time on April 4th 2006.

“This day is a reminder that millions of people in nearly 80 countries still live in fear of landmines and explosive remnants of war,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at a United Nations event marking the awareness day. “They take unacceptable toll on lives and limbs. They wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods. They block access to land, road and basic services”, he said.

In Nepal, another nation littered with the menace, special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Nepal Ian Martin said, greater awareness in the community is essential - “to prevent further loss of life and injury due to the remnants of war”.

This year’s United Nations Mine Action Day was observed on April 4th in Sri Lanka with various awareness activities.

Unexploded ordnance (UXOs) removal is occurring in several parts of Sri Lanka.

Vakarai and villages nearby in the littoral East is one such place. Visit through there shows the prevailing dangers and hidden hazards from the menace of mines.

In commemorating the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the area reinforces the attention and focus needed towards the eradication of mines:

"I am left alone. My family members fled during the heavy fighting. I am too old to be accompanied by them. I was found to be alone, when I woke up in the morning. I am trying to survive here" said Somasundaram Arumugam (76) from Kathiraveli
Sri Lanka army soldier is painstakingly clearing the former Forward Defence Line (FDL) in Panichchankerni
An elephant which stepped onto a landmine lying in pool of water in former no-man’s zone in Kirimichchai, former no-man's zone in Eastern province of Sri Lanka
There are unexploded ordnance (UXOs) in these areas
Signs of warning about landmines and unexpoded ordnance (UXOs) are put up at various places
Children can find these lethal unexpoded ordnance (UXOs) which are scattered in these areas and play with them.

"Be careful, wherever you live - Children are curious, which may lead them to touch or play with landmines. Teaching children how to live safely amidst the threat of landmines, and how to reduce the risk of being killed or severely disabled by a mine, is one of our key priorities", says the UNICEF.
A15, the main highway from Trincomalee to Batticaola has been closed for civilian movement
Vinayagar, in Vakarai on A15 highway, main road from Trincomalee to Batticaloa
Roadside Vinayagar in Vakarai on A15 highway, main road from Trincomalee to Batticaloa
“We have found 2,000 mines so far in the area.And we are expecting 3,000-4,000 mines have been laid in the area by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)” said Lieutenant Colonel Chandana Weerakoon, who is the head the brigade in Vakarai
“Mines” written in English, Tamil and Sinhala on Yellow colour tape, red skull with crossbone signs are stuck on the road and trees
Anti-personnel mines are the biggest problem according to military personnels
“Sorry for the inconvenience, stop the vehicle” says a sign board in the former checkpoint of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Panichchankerni
A soldier demines for thirty minutes, and takes a rest and restarts demining
A former stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was recaptured by the Sri Lankan security forces in January 2007
“It’s a risky job, but I do it to provide the space for the people to resettle” said a soldier who does demining
Two decades of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has claimed more 65,000 lives
A soldier checks for mines
Demining opeartion is being carried out inch by inch
An elephant which got caught to a landmine is being taken care at the elephant’s orphanage in Pinnewela
An Army soldier in Kathiraveli
Former first checkpoint set up by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Panichchankerni
The civilians are aware of the danger areas and danger of mines
Hospital in Vakarai
Photographs of ‘black tiger’ and ’sea black tiger martyrs’
There had been one million landmines laid by warring parties in Sri Lanka before signing the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002
Animals need protection from mines
An Army soldier at former Sornam base belonged to Liberation tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
Fresh mine fields have been laid after violence escalated since April 2006
More to be done for a mine-free planet