UNDP to clear mines

[TamilNet, Thursday, 25 June 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will commence a mine clearing project in the Jaffna peninsula at the end of this month said Mr. David Taylor, a British expert on landmines, in an interview given to the Uthayan, the only daily newspaper published in Jaffna.

Mr. Taylor has been in Jaffna for the past two months, conducting preliminary work. A complete mine-clearing team is expected to arrive soon.

Mr. Taylor said that about 50 local personnel would be recruited and trained to carry out the clearing operations. Eight sniffer dogs will also be brought in as part of the programe, he added. The operation is expected to cost around three and a half million US dollars and is expected to be finished in two years, he said.

"We have had discussions with the Army and the Government and obtained permission to bring necessary equipments to clear mine", said Mr. Taylor, adding "However, we have not yet received permission to bring our communication set to Jaffna, and he hoped it will be given soon."

Mr. Taylor said that though the Sri Lankan army had provided a map of minefields, it would not permit him to clear mines in some parts of Jaffna, particularly areas surrounding the high security zones of Palaly and area from Keerimalai to Maviddapuram and from Thondamanaaru to Palaly.

Though Mr. Taylor was certain that all the mines could be cleared eventually, he was not optimistic that areas swept of mines would remain so. New mines could be planted by the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers he said, pointing out that neither had signed an agreement compelling them not to use mines. As long as the fighting continues, mines would continue to be laid, he said.

When asked whether he had discussed his proposed operation with the Liberation Tigers, Mr. Taylor said that though he had not contacted the Tigers directly, there had been discussions with the Tigers at the UN level.

According to Mr. Taylor, a large number of mines are strewn in several areas of Jaffna including Nallur, Kokuvil, Puththur, Kopai, Neervely, Pandaitharippu, Chulipuram, Mathakal, Thachchanthopu, Maviddapuram, Keerimalai, Vasavilan, Thondamanaaru and Karanavai.

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