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Japan grants Rs.177 m for demining in NP  

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By Charumini de Silva

The Government of Japan provided Rs.177 million ($1.23 million) as grant aid to two organisations for humanitarian demining in Northern Sri Lanka under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP).

The two grant contracts were signed between Ambassador of Japan Kenichi Suganuma and Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony Sri Lanka (DASH) Director/Program Manager Ananda Chandrasiri and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) Regional Program Officer Bethan Davies at the Embassy of Japan in Colombo yesterday.

The Project implemented by DASH for demining in the Northern and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka received a sum of Rs. 90 million, while the project for Humanitarian Mine Action in Mannar and landmine Survey in Northern and Eastern Provinces implemented by MAG received a total of Rs.87 million.

Japan has been a major donor supporting mine clearance in Sri Lanka and since 2003 the country had provided a sum of $28 million for demining activities in the Northern and Eastern provinces under its grant assistance schemes. The support of Japan has accelerated the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and  facilitated recommencement of agriculture and livelihood activities of returnees.

Japan Ambassador Kenichi Suganuma said supporting rehabilitation and redevelopment of conflict affected areas of Sri Lanka was one of their top priorities.

He highlighted that last year when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had visited Japan they agreed upon a comprehensive partnership, which consisted of three pillars — promotion of trade and investment, support of the economic development of Sri Lanka and support to national reconciliation in the conflict affected areas. Thereby, demining was considered as one of the essential activities in the rehabilitation of the conflict affected areas.

“The shifting from the use of military land and demining is the basis for creating normalcy in the social life of these areas. We hope that this agreement would assist the Government of Sri Lanka in achieving a mine impact free by 2020,” the Ambassador pointed out.

He greatly appreciated the continued demining work of DASH and MAG and noted that without the dedication of such people and organisations, this program would not be successful.

Commenting on the provision of this grant DASH Director/Program Manager Ananda Chandrasiri said Japan’s continuous funding support to the organisation since 2010 had enabled them to clear and release over 4.35sqkm of land removing over 26,900 mines and 7,975 items of explosive remnants of war (ERW). 

However, he pointed out that there is still a great demand for demining in the country. “The Sri Lanka Army said that there were around one million land mines and since 2011 we have cleared about 0.7 million. The remaining land mines are mainly in the northern province as well as in border villages of Anuradhapura.” 

When asked if the Government target to see Sri Lanka mine-impact free by 2020 is realistic he asserted that it was essential to set a goal as Sri Lanka’s program has proved to be one of the most successful mine action stories in the world. 

“Our efforts contribute towards enhancing development and livelihood activities and thereby achieving peace and reconciliation as pursued by the Government. The pursuit of this endeavour calls for the provision of livelihood opportunities to the young people who were affected by the conflict. Being the only national demining organisation operating in the country, DASH has basically employed needy people from mine-affected areas, focusing on this necessity,” Chandrasiri noted. 

MAG Regional Program Officer Bethan Davies said the organisation was honored to be accepting this grant from the Government of Japan, an esteemed donor for Humanitarian Mine Action projects both within Sri Lanka and around the world. 

In the last two years alone, the partnership between MAG Sri Lanka and the Government of Japan has enabled the removal and destruction of over 4,000 landmines. The removal of these potentially lethal items have helped tens of thousands of people to resettle and rebuild their lives and livelihoods in Mannar District by providing safe land for agriculture, housing, schools and other community infrastructure. 

“Funding from people of Japan will not only continue to save lives, but also build futures by supporting livelihood development among some of the most mine-affected communities in Sri Lanka. With Japanese support, MAG is looking forward to continue clearance and survey activities in support of the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to being mine impact free by 2020,” she stressed. 

Davies stated that last year MAG was privileged to be asked by the Government of Sri Lanka to expand operations and undertake a systematic survey in the Eastern Province. “We are now looking forward to launching these activities in partnership with the Government of Japan under this project,” she added.

Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera 

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