Nepal has officially been declared a landmine-free country from Tuesday 14th June 2011. The declaration comes five years after the end of a decade long insurgency in Nepal where more than 14,000 people were killed.
The last remaining anti-personnel landmines were cleared by the Nepal Army this week. The devices had been planted in Phulchowki, an outskirt hilly point of the capital city, Kathmandu. Later, Nepal’s Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal declared the nation free from landmines.
On the occasion, PM Khanal said that the announcement was an important achievement in the peace process. Nepal has become the second country in Asia after China to be free of minefields.
The NA personnel have destroyed 257 landmines planted in 53 different locations in the nation since the Nepal’s peace process started in 2006.
The Comprehensive Peace Accord of 2006 was signed between the then government and the Maoist party. The Maoists had waged a people’s war to establish a hardcore communist regime. The CPA had urged both the warring parties (NA and PLA) to submit their “explosives data” within 30 days and clear them within 60 days. The announcement was immediately welcomed by the UK which has contributed biggest chunk of funds to the Nepal government to clear the landmines.
A statement released by the British Foreign Ministry read
“The UK Government today congratulated Nepal for the successful clearance of its last remaining minefields and its designation as a landmine free country. As a key donor, contributing over £5 million toward de-mining activities in Nepal over several years, the UK has worked closely with Nepal to help rid the country of its mines, which are estimated to have claimed over 300 lives since the end of the Nepalese civil war in 2006.”
FCO Minister Jeremy Browne further elaborated:
“I congratulate Nepal on this remarkable achievement, and pay tribute to the brave work of the demining personnel. I now urge the Government to build on this success by joining the Ottawa Convention to ensure that these terrible, indiscriminate weapons never again blight Nepali soil and the lives of its people.”
Similarly, DfID Minister Alan Duncan concurred with the praise given to the leadership of the Himalayan nation:
“This is really good news for Nepal. People can move without fear of death or horrific injury, and farmers can plough their fields and regain their livelihoods. Ridding a country of the scourge of landmines is an excellent use of UK aid. It is what development is all about.”
The UK Government has contributed to mine-clearance activities in Nepal through its support to the Nepal Peace Trust Fund and the UN Peace Fund for Nepal. In addition, UK funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for International Development (DfID) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) Conflict Pool has enabled the United Nations Mine Action Team to train and provide equipment for the Nepal Army’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit and the Nepal Army Mine Action Coordination Centre.
Besides landmines, both the Nepal Army and the Maoists had used Improvised Explosive Device (IED) during the insurgency.
However, only the NA was able to provide the details of the IEDs planted. During the same period in 2006 to 2011, 78 persons were killed and 395 others injured in IED related incidents, according to Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), a human rights organization.