The Killing Fields
Following China, Nepal became the second country in Asia to become free of landmines. Despite this breakthrough, homemade bombs remain a serious threat to the country and its people.
Nepal suffered a brutal civil war for nearly a decade, responsible for killing nearly 13,000 people and displacing a further 100,000. The bitter conflict between the government and the rebel Maoists prompted the government soldiers to plant thousands of landmines imported from India, China and Russia, across Nepal. Unfortu- nately most of these landmines were placed near elevated military posts, airports and telecommunication towers; areas that were accessible to the common public during the war.
During the insurgency the Nepal army planted nearly 11,000 landmines in 53 fields around Nepal. However, considering a possible de-mining process in the future, all the areas with landmines were mapped carefully. Therefore when a peace deal was signed in 2006 between the government and the rebels, there was an imminent need to clear the country of the thousands of landmines scattered all over. Once the armed revolt was officially over and the Maoist rebels surrendered their arms, the country from 2007 onwards began
the process of ridding itself from the landmines.
Landmines are designed to blow up automatically when someone steps on them. They are known to kill indiscriminately, everything and anything in their path. So when Nepal announced its decision to de-mine itself, this was seen as a positive step by nations across the globe. The United Kingdom donated close to 5 million pounds as well as military expertise to help Nepal with its de-mining process. The army under the United Nations Mine Action Team managed to destroy all the landmines by June 2011; five years after the peace deal was officially signed. According to a Nepalese human rights organization, from January 2006 to June 2011, four people were killed in landmine related incidents and 19 others were injured. The UNICEF, however, places the number of landmine related deaths at 16, mostly involving young children playing in the fields.
Originally the idea was to remove all landmines from the country within a year following the peace agreement. But owing to the steep terrain and unpredictable weather conditions, it was not possible to do so. In due time, however, the last mine was detonated at an iconic moment by the Nepalese Prime Minister, Jhala Nath Khanal, on 14th June 2011.
With the removal of all landmines planted within its territory, Nepal became the second country in Asia to be free of landmines - after China. UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Jeremy Browne offered congratulations to
During the insurgency, the Nepal army planted nearly 11,000 landmines in 53 fields around Nepal. However, considering a possible de-mining process in the future, all the areas with landmines were mapped carefully.
the country and asked it to join the Ottawa Convention to protest the use of these controversial weapons altogether. “I congratulate Nepal on this remarkable achievement and pay tribute to the brave work of the de-mining 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.”
While the threat of landmines is gone in Nepal, there still lurks the danger of the hundreds of homemade bombs planted heavily by both sides during the conflict. The Nepalese army managed to clear around 170 of the 275 homemade bombs it planted, whereas the UN arms monitor teams destroyed another 3,000 after they were handed over to them by the rebels following the peace agreement. There still remain an unknown number of such bombs scattered across Nepal that pose grave risks to the citizens. These bombs are currently in the process of being removed.