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Batticaloa District declares as free from landmines

(UDHAYAM, BATTICALOA) – The formal declaration to mark ‘The First Mine-Affected District of Sri Lanka Reaching a Level of Residual Risk’ was signed and handed over by stakeholders during a ceremony held at Batticaloa District Secretariat premises on Wednesday (21), states Army Media.

Accordingly, Sri Lanka Army – Humanitarian De-mining Unit (SLA-HDU) together with other International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) had successfully cleared minefields in Batticaloa District.

SLA – HDU had cleared 312,111,499 Sq m from 377,026,951 Sq m mine – affected area which is accounted for 83% from the Confirmed Hazardous Area (CHA). Other 17% was cleared by the INGOs and NGOs stakeholders, including ‘MAG’, ‘Halo Trust’, ‘FSD’, ‘SARVATRA’, ‘Horizon’, ‘DDG’, ‘DASH’ and ‘SHARP’ who joined the de-mining drive in 2009 for the ‘District by District’ programme in Batticaloa.

SLA-HDU is the leading de-mining organization in Sri Lanka, which continuously conducts its role under the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) of the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs. SLA-HDU is comprised with 450 Army de-miners and conducts their operations according to the internationally-accepted methods of Manual, Mechanical and Mine Detection Dog (MDD).

During the event, Engineer Brigade Commander Brigadier Amith Seneviratne delivered the SLA-HDU confirmation to the District Secretary for Batticaloa in the attendance of the officials of the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC). Other stake holders also gave their confirmation during the event.

Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D. M. Swaminathan, State Minister of Rehabilitation and Resettlement M. L. A. M. Hizbullah, the United States (US) Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap, British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and Maldives James Dauris, Diplomatic Envoys from Canada, Japan and Australia, Chief Minister for Eastern Province, Ministry Secretaries, District Secretary for Batticaloa and representatives of INGOs and NGOs, Army Officers and invitees were present at the occasion.

With the end of the conflict in year 2009, army de-miners initiated the de-mining process in previous Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) dominated areas as the only stakeholder. However, Army de-miners have been involving in mine-field clearing in the country since year 2002.

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