Nepal clears half the minefields laid during conflict

16:08, April 05, 2010      

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Nepal has cleared half the minefields laid during its 10-year conflict, helping the country secure lasting peace, local media reported on Monday.

According to The Kathmandu Post, the government with the support of United Nations (UN) and civil society actors had started demining operations two years ago as part of the commitment expressed by both the government and the then Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-M) in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The agreement spells out clear commitments on the clearance of mines and other dangerous explosive items, and commensurate assistance to the victims.

"Mine action constitutes one of the priority areas in our peace building process," Minister of Peace and Reconstruction Rakam Chemjong said on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on Sunday.

During the conflict, 53 minefields were planted by Nepal Army and more than 300 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) fields were laid by Nepal Army, the Police, and the Armed Police Force combined.

According to the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, an unknown number of IEDs were also produced by the UCPN-M army and left at different places during the decade-long war. As a result, these lost IEDs continue to pose a threat across the country.

Three special squads at the Nepal Army are carrying out demining operations across the country. The Nepal Army demining platoons, with support from the UN Mine Action Team (UNMAT) have now cleared 26 of the 53 minefields with plans to complete clearance of the remaining half by the end of 2011.

Regarding the explosives possessed by the UCPN-Ms, UNMAT carried out a final demolition of all the explosive items held at UCPN-M cantonments in December 2009 in coordination with UCPN-M combatants.

A total of 52,617 IEDs and other dangerous items have been destroyed by UNMAT since the beginning of these demolitions in 2007, read the statement issued by the ministry.

However, the ministry concedes that despite the progress made in minefield and IED stockpile clearance, Nepalis are still being killed by explosive remnants of war. "It is impossible to clear all these devices systematically, as they litter the countryside in unknown locations," said the ministry.

In 2009, there were 70 casualties from victim-activated explosions--children made up 54 percent of the casualties. This gives Nepal one of the highest child casualty rates in the world.

Source: Xinhua


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