Handicap International launches new project to prevent landmine accidents in Jammu and Kashmir
Over 60 years of conflict have left the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir heavily polluted by landmines and other explosive weapons. Accidents are frequent and half of all the victims are local people often employed the military. Although Urdu is the first language of most people in the state, many of the signs that warn people about the proximity of these weapons are in Hindi.
© Handicap International
There is a huge need to raise awareness in order to prevent accidents, which is why Handicap International, in partnership with a local organisation, has recently begun a risk education project.
As part of the project over 500 people are attending risk education sessions in the districts of Baramulla, Rajouri, Kupwara and Poonch, which are on the border with Pakistan. One hundred volunteers and government health workers will also receive training and 30,000 posters and leaflets with safety messages will also be distributed.
Although the contaminated areas along the border are cordoned off by barbed wire, local people are often poorly informed about the risks. For example, when children are shown photos of mines, many think they are toys.
The region is mountainous and prone to flooding and landslides, which dislodge mines and carry them to areas, which were not previously contaminated. Three farmers were killed and another seriously injured earlier this year when a mine that they were trying to move exploded.
Accidents like this show how important it is to raise awareness so that more people know how to recognise these weapons, are aware of the damage they can cause, can recognise warning signs, and are aware of the areas, including land around checkpoints and infrastructure, where the risks are highest.