1,000th Landmine Removed In Sri Lanka This Year

Friday the 13th is an unlucky day for landmines. Today MAG removed its 1,000th mine in Sri Lanka so far this year – great news for 300 families eagerly waiting to resettle on a former minefield in the north of the country.

Rangan AP landmines in Sri Lanka

Indicated by the yellow plastic tape, these are landmines number 999 and 1,000 to be removed by our teams in Sri Lanka so far this year.

Photo: MAG Sri Lanka

Among the people who'll benefit from this lifesaving work are 150 families that fled to India from 1989-1992 during armed conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

MAG is pleased that we can clear this land and welcome these people back to their homeland.

Pictured above are two LTTE-manufactured Rangan anti-personnel mines – landmines number 999 and 1,000 to be removed and destroyed by our teams in Sri Lanka in the first two-and-a-half months of 2015.

The landmine problem in Sri Lanka

By the time Sri Lanka’s longstanding conflict between the Government and the LTTE finally ended in 2009, around 300,000 people had been displaced from their homes by the fighting.

The conflict left the country’s northern and eastern districts contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), preventing returning communities from rebuilding their lives and re-establishing their livelihoods.

Contaminated land restricts access to paddy fields, water sources and roads, and poses safety concerns for development agencies.

Transforming former minefields

MAG is helping Sri Lanka's Government move quickly towards its goal of becoming a landmine-free nation. From July to December 2014 alone, we returned 943,500m² of land to safe and productive use, and helped 20,890 men, women and children.

Sri Lankan family living on a former minefield

"From the bottom of my heart, I thank MAG. Without them, nobody would be able to live in the village. When we came back, I found some mines close to my house. I was very afraid and contacted MAG teams who were working nearby. They immediately started clearing them." – Arumugam Navaseelan, pictured with his wife and child in Mannar District, northern Sri Lanka, in 2012.

Photo: Sean Sutton/MAG

MAG is currently the only non-governmental organisation working in Mannar District, which accounts for 20 per cent of the country’s total remaining landmine contamination.

Considered Sri Lanka’s 'Rice Bowl' due to its agricultural potency, Mannar suffered greatly during the war, when many kilometres of defensive mine rows were laid. Their lasting legacy was to make fertile land unusable and dangerous for the communities wanting to re-establish their lives in the district.

But success is achievable. One of the worst hit areas during the civil war, Puthukudiyiruppu (or 'PTK'), was littered with explosive weapons and minefields. By making land there safe, MAG has transformed the town, enabling the displaced population to return home and recover their lives and livelihoods. 

MAG's work in Sri Lanka is supported by: Humanitarian Demining Research & Development Program; Japanese Government; US State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


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Page published: 13 March 2015