KATHMANDU: Speakers at a programme today urged the government to take necessary steps to make Nepal one of the State Parties to the Mine Ban Convention in a bid to support the vision ‘world free of landmines’.

Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Rakam Chemjong said that there has been impressive progress in mine clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance in partnership with an active mine action community comprising government actors, the United Nations and civil society.

Addressing a programme on the occasion of 5th International Day of mine awareness and assistance in mine action, Chemjong added that the Nepal Army is working towards clearing all the minefields laid during the conflict.

“Continuation and increased coverage of mine risk education and victim assistance activities are all critical components for a successful mine action strategy,” said the minister. He added that National Mine Action Technical Committee has taken the responsibility of policies and implementation issues.

Chemjong added that mine action is one of the priority areas of the peace building process. “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the Government of Nepal and the then CPN-M spells out clear commitment to the mine action and appropriate assistance to the victims.

During the conflict, 53 minefields were planted by the Nepal Army and more than 300 Improvised Explosive Device fields were laid by the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force combined. The number of IEDs produced by the Maoist army is unknown and they still pose a threat across the country even today.

Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF representative to Nepal said that during the conflict, thousands of men, women and children fell victims of IEDs. Since the signing of the CPA in 2006, more than 262 casualties have been reported and 33 people have been killed in landmine explosion and other explosive remnants of war. Youths and children are mostly vulnerable to mines and other explosives, said Mellsop, adding that the number of child victims is increasing.

The United Nations has safely defused 52,617 IEDs and other explosives. Mine Risk Education through Ministry of Education has reached more than half a million school children in the mine-affected areas.