2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Sri Lanka

Report
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Sri Lanka’s landmine and UXO contamination is a result of more than three decades of armed conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which campaigned to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for the Tamil people. Following the end of the war in 2009, landmine and UXO clearance quickly commenced in the north to alleviate the threat faced by internally displaced persons returning to contaminated communities. While Sri Lanka expects to be mine impact-free in 2016, contamination remains a serious impediment to resettlement. National estimates of total landmine and UXO contamination have fallen sharply, from 506 million square meters (195 square miles) in 2010 to less than 84 million square meters (32 square miles) at the end of 2013. The Sri Lankan government elected on January 8, 2015, has made a priority of returning land to internally displaced persons and repatriating citizens, an important step toward national reconciliation. This further increases the importance of the U.S. government’s demining efforts.

From FY1995 through FY2014, the United States invested more than $46.4 million in Sri Lanka to fund mine clearance efforts, survey projects, mine risk education, and national capacity building. In FY2014, the U.S. government contributed more than $5.3 million to CWD in Sri Lanka.

The Department of State funded the following implementing partners:

• Delvon Association for Social Harmony continued landmine and UXO removal in northern Sri Lanka in support for resettlement of internally displaced persons.

• HALO performed clearance operations in the northern province to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to return internally displaced persons to their homes.

• Marshall Legacy Institute provided assessment and training assistance to Sri Lankan Army Humanitarian Demining Units in the use of their mine detection dog capacity.

• MAG cleared and restored access to land in Mannar, northern Sri Lanka for resettlement.

The Department of Defense funded the following:

• HD R&D partnered with HALO to continue an evaluation of the Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System to improve mine clearance in metallic soils and deep sand, and with MAG to evaluate the Improved Backhoe system and rake attachments.

• USPACOM deployed military EOD personnel to Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, to conduct UXO disposal training including demining and first-responder medical training, with an emphasis on blast-trauma injuries for the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. USPACOM also conducted an underwater humanitarian mine action project with the Sri Lankan Command Dive Unit East at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. The OHDACA appropriation funded humanitarian supplies, equipment, services, and mine action activities.

USAID’s Leahy War Victims Fund continued support for physical rehabilitation at Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo, the Teaching Hospital in Batticaloa, and a prosthetics and orthotics clinic in Kilinochchi; and, development of a locally produced prosthetic foot.