COLOMBO, July 15 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lankan government said Thursday that more than 80 percent of the war displaced civilians in the north has been resettled to their original villages and the number of Internally Displaces Persons (IDP) is fast dwindling.
Minister of Resettlement Milroy Fernando told reporters that over 250,000 IDPs have already been resettled to their original villages.
"There are only 38,127 IDPs in welfare centers in Vavuniya now, " Fernando said.
During the military operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, about 290,000 IDPs crossed to government control areas and sought refugee in state-run welfare centers.
Fernando said the government is confident that they could meet the August deadline to complete the resettlement process.
Officials from the Competent Office for the IDPs in Vavuniya said there are only four welfare centers in Vavuniya now as over 80 percent of the IDPs having been resettled.
The government faced strong criticism by human rights groups for delaying resettling IDPs but the government said the process was delayed due to de-mining of former LTTE battlefields, which were highly contaminated with deadly mines.
"Within a year, we have achieved a tremendous progress in resettling the IDPs. The other countries which faced similar phenomena had taken more time than us to resettle displaced people, " Fernando said.
Military Spokesman Udaya Medawala said there are only 361 square kilometers of land remained to be cleared for mines.
"Out of 1,474 sq km covering 640 villages in the Kilinochchi, Mullattivu and Mannar districts, over 1,113 sq km of land have been de-mined and the IDPs are resettled," said the spokesman.
According to Medawela, over 1.5 million mines have been recovered. He said the de-miners from the NGOs have been deployed apart from military de-miners to speed up the de-mining process.
"Six local and foreign NGOs are working together with 1,050 military de-miners who are clearing anti-personnel mines, explosives and other deadly devices. We are using sniff-dogs and imported de-mining machines to expedite the process," Medawela said.
According to the Economic Development Ministry, Jaffna district has been completely de-mined.
Ministry sources said the government has spent 2.18 billion rupees (about 19.21 million U.S. dollars) for de-mining activities since 2009.