FSD has been working in Sri Lanka since 2002 with operations in the north and the east of the country. FSD is currently deployed on tasks in Mannar and Vavuniya District in the north after completing clearance in 11 villages in the Rice Bowl area in the final months of 2009. The area of land release was approximately 10.7km2 which was highly contaminated with mines and UXO: The area saw intense fighting during the last phase of the war and four major defence lines impacted villages and agricultural land. Already 534 families have returned to the area and more arrive every day from the IDP camps.
FSD has now started demining operations in newly assigned tasks to the South and East of Madu Church: Periyathampanai, Kakkayankulam East, Kakkayankulam West, Kalmadu, Iranai Illuppaikulam and Periyapandivirichchan East an area of 136.7 SqKm2 where approximately 964 families will benefit from clearance.
FSD operates with six international staff and 540 national staff members in Sri Lanka who conduct technical and non technical survey, mechanical ground preparation, manual clearance, mine risk education and EOD activities.
Since 2002, FSD has cleared over 21km2 through Manual and Mechanical clearance, Technical Survey and Battle Area Clearance removing 22,491 Anti personnel mines, 28 Anti Tank mines and 6,505 Unexploded Ordnance and 25,511 other items.
Mines and Unexploded Ordnance
With the end of the war in May 2009 Sri Lanka is now facing the legacy of years of contamination with mines and UXOs prevalent across the north of the country. The government of Sri Lanka is committed to sending IDPs back to their villages as soon as possible and explosive remnants of war are the first obstacles to be removed to enable this to happen; 280 000 civilians are in the process of returning to their homes. The task is challenging within the short time frame given – IDPs are leaving the camps in high numbers now and the level of contamination is intense in many of the return areas.
Mine clearance is the first step to enable the return of the internally displaced population in the north and to ensure their livelihood
The FSD team is working in close contact with the local authorities and the other stakeholders in order to integrate mine action into relief and development plans and ensure that demining activities impact and benefit the local population. Our innovative Rapid Assessment missions and Post Clearance Assessment Reports are used by our development partners to help them plan their interventions in places where they have restricted access.
The ongoing Mine Clearance Programme of FSD is funded by the governments of Germany, Japan, Switzerland, USA, Australia and also ECHO. The Mine Action Programme operates from the national head office based in Colombo and has Field Bases located at Vavuniya and Mannar. The programme operates under the strict guidance of, and reports directly to the Sri Lankan National Steering Committee for Mine Action (NSCMA), which is responsible to the line ministry Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development. All clearance conducted is in compliance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and the statistics recorded in Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). FSD coordinates closely with local authorities and relevant relief agencies.
It is clear that a huge effort will be required to deal with the level of ERW contamination in Sri Lanka. Landmine clearance is a time consuming activity and the government has set aggressive deadlines for IDP return to post conflict areas. Mechanical capacity goes some way towards speeding the process but 100% clearance can only be guaranteed though the deployment of manual deminers with metal detectors into the highest risk areas.
Mine clearance requires extensive logistic planning and support, factors often underestimated by decision makers. It also requires sustained funding and advanced planning to ensure cost efficient deployment and quality assurance and quality control are essential to provide the wanted result of releasing safe land.
FSD established two Community Liaison/Mine Risk Education (CL/MRE) teams on February 2nd, 2010 with the aim of enhancing our engagement with the local communities where we operate, particularly after the demining teams have moved on and IDPs return to areas that may still be surrounded by contamination. Ideally our teams would stay and clear the remaining areas but the pressure is intense to clear other villages in order to allow IDP return.
FSD remains committed to a mine free Sri Lanka while thanking its donors for their contributions and continued support.