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Kamala Sarup: Landmines Jeopardise Nepal

Landmines Continue To Jeopardise Nepal


By Kamala Sarup

In Nepal, landmines terrorize the population, cause death and terrible injuries, and prevent economic and social progress. While estimates of the total number of landmines here vary, they all run into the thousands. Land mines affect Nepal on a daily basis because they are weapons of social terror.

Landmines represent an enormous burden particularly for the poor. Those who suffer the most and are least able to cope are the poor; landless peasants, subsistence farmers, internally displaced, and women are the most vulnerable and most adversely affected.

In short, there is total disruption to Nepali life and the environment. In addition to the deterioration of the basic infrastructure the reduction of health services have left Nepal with poor water and sewage systems which in turn have led to a huge increase in endemic disease and thus Nepal is left with one of the highest mortality rates. When a rural people survives an incident with wounds or shattered limbs, they likely unable to afford medical treatment, prostheses and ortheses.

All of these limiting factors caused by landmines severely decrease the ability of the country to attract foreign investment which is desperately needed to stimulate the economy and provide a better standard of living for Nepali.

The increased numbers of people in certain parts of the country place a strain on the resources of the land. They make land unsuitable for agriculture by creating giant craters or imminent danger. Mines cause irreversible damage to ecosystems. Mines also threaten rare and endangered species.

Now we have question How would our government take steps at the national, levels aimed at a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel landmines?. When government will conduct of an extensive survey to identify mined areas and demining needs? In many mine-affected districts, however there is still a lack of knowledge as to the extent of the problem and detailed information as to the exact location of the mines.

The total number of landmine survivors continues to grow as new casualties are recorded in every district of Nepal. In many mine-affected areas, the capacity to provide assistance to survivors is limited: most services are in urban centers, but the majority of survivors are in rural areas; resources are directed to medical and physical rehabilitation support is limited why?.

Why still there is no separate budget and no special provisions are designed for mine victims?. Even Hospitals providing assistance to mine casualties but why there are no known programs offering physiotherapy, prosthetics, or psychological support to mine survivors?.

If the situation is not remedied with help from the international community, It will not allow for industry and agriculture to flourish. It has been widely recognized that mines have long-lasting social, economic, and environmental implications but still why as an unfortunate reality, national environmental aspects of landmines have not been studied to detail?

Nepal needs to focus on establishing a strong national infrastructure to support and extend the substantial international demining programme now in effect for some more years to come.

The landmine crisis is one of the most urgent and critical crises facing our Nation today. Landmines continue to jeopardise the security of the people of Nepal because it has paralyzed the country. More than nine years of maoists conflict in Nepal has left a terrible landmine legacy that poses a risk to civilians fleeing increased hostilities in the country. And the most disturbing fact is that majority of landmine victims are civilians.

Nepali are directly targeted; often the mines are scattered in an indiscriminate and random fashion, terrorizing local people. These "silent killers" are laid in the ground, they can remain active for decades.

For individual and community alike many of whom are already living in poverty and insecurity, the impact of landmines is not simply physical, it is also psychological, social and economic. Every districts in Nepal, with the exception of Kathmandu has had people killed or injured by landmines.

The far western and eastern part of our country, previously not significantly affected, now has more than hundred mines in area, and there are fears that the ongoing conflict in the area may lead to much wider use of landmines. As a consequence, the delivery of electricity and water becomes more sporadic in heavily mined areas. Irrigation systems become unusable. Transportation of goods and services is halted on mined roads and the roads themselves begin to deteriorate.

Local businesses, unable to obtain supplies. Unemployment in those areas increases and the prices for scarce goods rise up. In those areas dependent upon outside aid for sustenance, the mining of roads can mean a sentence to death by starvation. Mine incidents have now been reported in 71 of 75 districts.

Landmines are responsible for depopulating vast tracts of the countryside, affecting crop harvests and interfering with the transportation of food supplies into the cities. People cannot go to their fields, and the ever-present threat of landmines risks livelihoods and creates a huge scare. A lack of understanding of the problem and limited information on the location of the mines are hampering efforts to clear them.

Prevalence of landmines represented a serious threat to peace building activities, including regeneration of agricultural production and thus demining came as the most important challenge for the Nation, which is also important in order to avoid massive casualty rates. Because of the widespread location of mines, the major activities of the rural population which are tilling fields, herding livestock, and foraging or wood and food have become dangerous.

Also, even though casualty and disability rates maintain a high ratio in the country, there is no disability law in Nepal. The battle against landmines must not be delayed and requires commitment at the highest level. The threat of landmines still casts a dark shadow across the country. To date, landmines have claimed more than thousands Innocent Nepali civilians on a daily basis. The devastation caused by landmines in Nepal not only for the many Nepali victims, but also to the socioeconomic well-being of the nation is appalling.

Nepal is yet to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, even Nepal is the one most heavily impacted by landmines. We want to urge the government to join the treaty and ban landmines as soon as possible. Maoist are displaying an increasing readiness to use landmines in attacking army and civilians, as well as infrastructure.

However, Maoists is also using indiscriminate or victim-activated mines. These mines are exempted from the international ban. The Maoists also use wire-detonated pressure cookers packed with explosives to target passing military vehicles. The use of homemade mines by the Maoist has increased with the failure of peace talks and the escalation of the conflict.

However, Nepal voted in favor of pro-ban UN General Assembly Resolution 56/24M in November 2001, as it had on similar resolutions in the past. Even, on 8 April 2002, the Parliament passed a bill that added the term "landmines" to the definition of "bomb" contained in the Terrorist and Destructive Act. But how still Maoist rebels have demonstrated the ability to produce significant quantities of victim-activated homemade mines?.

Although the use of landmines is restricted by the general principles of international humanitarian law and more specifically by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, these weapons continue to pose a threat to individuals and communities in Nepal why?. Clearance of mines could take years but unless landmines are removed and destroyed, they will pose huge ancillary social costs. Now, government should adopt national policies, to immediately prohibit the use, production, import and export of antipersonnel mines. Plans should be formulated and implemented to destroy existing stockpiles of antipersonnel mines as rapidly as possible. Government should also commit to the destruction of emplaced mines as rapidly as possible. All mines removed from the ground must be destroyed, and not retained for future use.

The conflict in Nepal has dramatically exacerbated this situation, and the damage will continue if environmental considerations are not taken into account. The educational component of mine awareness is essential.

Government should make public detailed information about its antipersonnel mine stockpiles and minefields. Resources should be made available to improve data collection and analysis on the socio-economic impact of mines. Policy makers for funding of humanitarian demining assistance should, accordingly, consider at least the above mentioned factors while deciding how to allocate funds in conflict master recovery planning.

Poor decision-making may in fact prove disastrous and counter productive in determined scenarios. Mobilizing the public conscience has always been an important factor in gaining support for arms control agreements.

Landmine victims suffer severe emotional trauma as well. Every effort must be made to limit the environmental destruction caused by mines. The Nepali community must all out condemn all deliberate destruction. However, Humanitarian demining costs are elevated and in most cases drains vital funds from other badly needed investments for reconstruction. Even, international consensus has yet to be achieved and Nepal's problem continues unabated.

We must act together now because landmines are still being laid to wait for a victim, render farm land useless, and devastate local communities and economies.

*************

(Kamala Sarup is editor of http://peacejournalism.com/ )

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