Minefield Problems Remain 


July 3, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-2 July 01-2011 (Ashar 17,2068)

The Comprehensive Peace Accord (2006) had clearly mentioned that “the government army and the Maoist PLA shall assist each other to mark landmines and booby traps used during the time of armed conflict by providing information within 30 days and defuse and excavate the same within 60 days.”

We civilians do not know much about the nature of landmines, their impacts and what policies are there regarding them. People don't care about this unless these explosives cause immediate loss to them. But according to INSEC, 78 persons were killed and 395 others were injured by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) during 2006-2011.

Both Nepal Army and Maoist PLA used the landmines as a strong defense strategy during the decade of insurgency. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were used massively everywhere, especially in places like Kalikot, Jumla, Dang, and Arghakhachi where exchange of firing occurred.

In all, Nepal Army planted 275 explosives and Maoist PLA 52, 617. As part of implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the government declared Nepal a mine free country in June 14, 2011. Phulchoki of Lalitpur was called the last site for clearance of the anti-personnel landmines. Nepal also announced that it is the second landmine free Asian country.

Unfortunately, two days after the declaration, on June 16, this writer was in Manma, Kalikot asking for help to the victims of landmines. A bomb blast occurred in Phuhemahadev village of Kalikot. A 16-year boy, named Ananda Pandey, was injured severely while he was in his maize farm. He was brought to Bir Hospital and transferred to teaching hospital in June 26. He lost one of his eyes completely, and another eye had injuries. He lost fingers, suffered broken arms and had severely damaged mouth, nose, forehead, and chest. Now, he is getting surgery and treatment in the teaching hospital where Action Works Nepal (AWON), a non-governmental organization working for Karnali, is taking care of him under Miteri Gaun (Let's Live Together) campaign.

In this scenario, the government still needs to consider landmines as a serious concern for the following reasons; i) the civilians do not have access to information about the policies and systems, ii) no access to well equipped health institutions, iii) poor mechanism to respond to the survivors of landmine accidents. Thus, the government should continue to educate the people for taking consideration of nearby cantonments, barracks and areas of cross firing. The government also should ensure the system is in place to take care of survivors fully even after the declaration announcing the country as landmine free. Otherwise the risks are there that more negative impacts occur. For example, if Ananda had got immediate treatment (such as by rescuing him via a helicopter) and treatment, he wouldn't lose his vision. In this connection, provisions of free health treatment matters little. The needful action always matters, therefore, the government should be serious to serve landmine survivors. In a landmine free country, there should not be more people suffering like Ananda. Never Again.

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