One of the more physical legacies of the Sri Lankan conflict is the presence of ‘bunds’ across the island’s landscape. The inverse of a trench, these long mounds of earth were used by fighters on both sides to defend their position - and heavily lain with landmines and other ordnance in the process. One such bundline is the KLN-BND11e, which was built to defend the town of Kilinochchi, 100 south-east of Jaffna. HALO commenced clearance around bund 11 in 2011 and has been working on the final section since 2014.
During clearance, HALO deminers identified 5 distinct minelines running parallel to the bund and have found and disposed of nearly 2,500 antipersonnel mines and over 500 other items including an aircraft bomb. Yet the ongoing clearance hasn’t deterred a handful of families from settling nearby however, as the soil is particularly fertile and ripe for cultivation. Take the Nadason family, who first fled their home in the south in 1977, only to be uprooted once again in 2008 as the Sri Lankan army pushed further north. They found temporary accommodation in a welfare camp, but decided to move to within just 20 metres of the bundline in 2010, in order to cultivate the high-quality land.
Today the Nadasons have a plot of land which produces corn, bananas, beans, aubergine and passion fruit. Mr Nadason then cycles to Kilinochchi (once a week?) where he earns around 5000 LKR a month selling his produce at the local market. Yet even with a thriving business, the Nadasons lack basic amenities such as clean water. Reinforcing their basic, dug out well with concrete would keep their water supply clean from dirt and sand, but at 150,000 LKR, is beyond his pay packet.
But as clearance of the bund progresses and the land is gradually released back to the community, more and more families will join the Nadasons and create a new settlement. Once settlements are in place, government and non-government assistance can be sought to provide housing, sanitation and access to clean water. Today, around 25 families have started clearing vegetation and demarcating their plots with fences. Were it not for mine clearance, the bund would still be denying their livelihoods and those of future settlers today.
Mr Muthiya Nadason and his wife in front of their home.
A deminer conducts manual excavation at BND11e. The yellow sticks in the background mark where a number of mines have been found and removed.