Jaffna mine clearing to commence

[TamilNet, Monday, 05 July 1999, 16:55 GMT]
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced during a press conference held at its offices in Baudhaloka Mawatha, Colombo today, that it is to begin its mine clearing operation in the Jaffna peninsula shortly.

The mine-clearing program was being initiated for humanitarian and economic reasons, UNDP officials said.

They explained that displaced people, who have returned to Jaffna since the intense battles of 1995 and 1996, are only able to work in areas that are certified as "mine free" which are limited.

The UNDP's first step will be to send a team comprising 11 people and 4 dogs to Jaffna from Trincomalee in an ICRC ship next Wednesday, said officials.

Phase 1 of the operation will be to identify all the sections of the Jaffna peninsula which have been mined, they said.

The mine clearing operation is expected to take about 6 months to complete, they added.

The operation is being handled by Minetech of Zimbabwe, they said. The company is run by John Dixon, a South African.

Minetech has been clearing mines for over 10 years, and has cleared mines in Bosnia, Nicaragua, and especially Mozambique.

The South African trained German Shepherds that will be used for detecting the mines will take around a month to adjust to the Sri Lankan climate said UNDP officials.

The dogs will be used in pairs, the second pair taking over as the first two become too exhausted to continue, they said.

The dogs are more successful in wet areas, rather than dry terrain. The dogs can detect various types of mines because they have been trained to sniff for the explosives used in the devices.

The UNDP will pay Minetech 40,000 US dollars per month for the estimated 6 months.

At the press conference, Minetech gave a demonstration of the techniques that are to be used to clear mines in the northern peninsula.

The Australian government has given the UNDP 350,000 dollars for the project while the Netherlands government has donated 200,000 dollars. Officials from both the Australian and Netherlands embassy were present at the conference.


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