DE-MINING MINES (Nepal)


Over 1200 people have been killed and 2500 others injured due to landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosives since the beginning of the insurgency in 1996, according to the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL).


(08.12.2005)

The widespread use of landmines and IEDs by both sides [the Maoists and the government forces] has accelerated after the February 1 move.

Hari Bahadur Karki, 25, of Rasnalu VDC Ramechaap district, used to enjoy life as any normal person but not anymore. Not after his right limb was blown off by a landmine blast.

Fate had something different in store for him when he was returning home in a bus from Kathmandu on September 7, 2003. The bus ran over a landmine planted by the rebels in Mainapokhari of Dolkha district. Luckily, Karki survived but lost his right hand in the blast. And life was never the same again.

"I used to drive a taxi for a living but these days I don't have any work as I can't drive with only one hand," said Karki.

Tara Chettri, 17, from Darlaumchaur VDC in the hilly western district of Gulmi lives with his own nightmares. On his way back home from school on February 13, 2004, one of his friends was killed on the spot when he mistook a bomb for a plaything that was lying on the road in his village. Though Chhetri survived with shrapnel injuries to his arms and legs, he was left traumatized by the incident.

"The whole incident haunts me like a nightmare even today," said Chhetri. He undergoes regular checkups at the Sushma Koirala Hospital in Sankhu.

Over 1200 people have been killed and 2500 others injured due to landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosives since the beginning of the insurgency in 1996, according to the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL).

"In most of the cases the victims are innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the ongoing conflict," said Purna Shobha Chitrakar of the Nepal Branch of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the coordinator of the NCBL.

Year 2004 saw the highest number of casualties with 389 deaths. And there seems to be no halting it as the widespread use of landmines and IEDs by both sides [the Maoists and the government forces] has accelerated after the February 1 move.

To make matters worse, the ICBL says the government reportedly began encouraging and arming localized civilian militias, known as "Maoist Defence Groups" or "Village Defence Forces" in 2004.

ICBL report said a Village Defence Force in Paklihawa, Nawalparasi district, admitted to mining the village outskirts under its area of operation against Maoist incursions, planting as many as 170 homemade mines in each ward in May 2005. The group said it planted a total of 1,500 mines risking the lives of civilians.

Before the Maoists declared their unilateral ceasefire on Sept 3, the NCBL recorded 737 incidents of explosions related with landmines and IEDs that killed 203 people and injured over 700 between January-September this year.

"The incidents related to landmine explosions dropped significantly after the Maoist truce but the risks of landmines are as high as ever," said Chitrakar.

She added that compared to just four districts in 1999, all 75 districts are now riddled with landmines. Thanks to the ongoing Maoist insurgency.

While security forces generally use landmines to protect their barracks, the rebels use them in public places to ambush security patrols.

"The use of land mines and other explosives on public roads and highways by the rebels is unacceptable as it has become a major threat to the safety of civilians," she said.

The ICBL in its Landmine Monitor Report 2005 said while the worldwide use of anti-personnel landmines decreased reducing the number of casualties from mines, in Nepal, however, the situation was different.

The report said that the rebels' use of mines was widespread and that the government too deserved strong condemnation for laying anti-personnel landmines.

Nepal is not among the 147 countries that have ratified the Mine Ban Treaty that prohibits the use, production, trade and stockpiling of landmines. The government has not acceded to the treaty although various representatives consistently pledged support.

"We have been lobbying both the warring parties in the country to sign the treaty but nothing concrete has been achieved so far," said Chitrakar.

"A collective effort is the need of the hour to pressure the Maoists and the government to refrain them from using landmines is vulnerable areas," added she.

She also warned that the number of physically handicapped people could increase alarmingly if prompt initiative is not taken to ban landmines.

"Landmines are one of the biggest contributors to the disability factor caused during the conflict as many surviving victims are maimed," she said.

Von: 07 December 2005, http://www.kantipuronline.com by DEEPESH DAS SHRESTHA

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