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By APD writer Jamila Husain
COLOMBO, June 22 (APD) - The Sri Lankan government aims to make the island country free from landlines by the year 2020 after hundreds of people have been killed or disabled from it in former war torn areas.
Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement, D. M. Swaminathan said that out of the total number of land mines buried during the countrys civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels which ended in May 2009, 1,276,898 have already been removed.
He however said that 26 square km more of the North-Central Province were still pending mine clearance.
On Wednesday, Sri Lankas eastern district of Batticaloa because the islands first to be labelled as landmine free with the efforts of the Sri Lanka army, local and international demining groups , especially from the Mines Advisory Group (MAG).
MAG in a statement said it had 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 countrys devastating civil war, which ended in 2009, Batticaloa District is the first to be classified as residual risk, MAG said.
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," MAG said.
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.
The Sri Lanka army said that despite the end of the war in 2009, the army had begun de-mining efforts since 2002 making lands safe for the people.
An unaccounted number of landmines were buried by the rebels during their 30 years of conflict in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
Making areas of Sri Lanka safe from landmines is an important part of the post-war reconciliation efforts and essential to cementing sustainable peace.