The Sri Lanka Army de-mining personnel who have cleared mines in over 1,000 square kilometres of land have sped up the removal of mines in the remaining 692 sq.km of heavily mined former LTTE strongholds in Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi to accelerate the resettlement of displaced people.
After the Security Forces defeated the LTTE on May 19 last year, the Army was tasked with the clearing of 1,692 sq.km of mine-laden areas in the North.
Over 15,689 anti-personnel mines, 37 tank mines and 4,508 unexploded ordnance were recovered from the areas.
Over 877 Army de-mining personnel have been deployed to remove mines in selective areas in Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Batticaloa and Trincomalee to complete de-mining which is vital for early resettlement , Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, the Chief Engineer of the Army said.
Presently de-mining is being carried out at 12 sites in the North and the East, the Army de-mining units have already cleared both sides of the A-9, A-35 and B-69 roads.
He said that the Army had completed removing mines from Omanthai to Elephant Pass (EPS), a stretch of 83 km and Jaffna to EPS, about 56 km We have only 3.2 km at Muhamalai to complete mine clearing in the entire A-9.
We have also cleared a stretch of 54 kms from Chunnakam to EPS, to prepare the ground to lay high tension power lines , he said.
Over 17 km of the A-35 road from Navakkuli to Kerathiv and 7.8 km from Pooneryn to Paranthan of the B-69 have also been cleared.
According to Brig. Nanayakkara, the clearing of mines in the remaining area is going at a slow pace as they are heavily mined.
Brig. Nanayakkara said no other country in the world had similarly dangerous mine-laden battle fields. The de-miners have now stepped into the most dangerous sites. They are different from field to field and the personnel need more time to unearth these mines as the LTTE had put all their strength to halt the final military push , he said.
However, Army de-mining personnel have commenced de-mining the areas earmarked for resettlement as a matter of priority. We have completed clearing of mines in religious places, cultivable lands, schools, hospitals and State buildings to expedite the resettlement process , he said.Personnel from seven local and foreign de-mining NGOs work together with the Army to clear the mines in the North.
According to the Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Ministry, 193,607 IDPs have been resettled while 76,205 IDPs are still living in welfare centres in Vavuniya.