Wells clearance contaminated with explosive remnants of war

Mine Risk Clearance
Elected projects
Minimum CHF 1,000 The clearance-cost per well amounts to CHF 200 (USD 190)
Funding date
Minimum 10 days. Two days per well for a specialized FSD team.
Applicant Name: 
Mrs Valeria Fabbroni, Head of Operations FSD, mail address: geneva@fsd.ch


25 years of civil war in Sri Lanka has left behind a legacy of unexploded ordnance, landmines and other dangerous items that impact the civil population, particularly in the North and East of the country. Roads, houses and fields are not accessible in many locations. Civilians who ran away from the war are returning to their home areas now despite the risk that the debris of war poses to them.

UNHCR estimates that there were a total of 386,000 displaced people in Sri Lanka at the end of the conflict in May 2009 and that 158,000 have been resettled by March 2010, with an additional 24,000 currently residing with host families. Approx 83,000 others still remain in eight different camp-sites awaiting permission to return home.

Explosive remnants of war include small and large size munitions, bullets, mortars, grenades and rockets. Many devices will also lie hidden in places where time and experience is needed to find them: open wells are one type of such deadly “caches”. Wells were often used during the conflict as disposal places to dispose unwanted devices quickly, or to conceal them. In other instances combatants polluted the wells to make them unusable for the enemy or returning populations, posing a threat of poisoning or killing or injuring civilians through explosives accidents. Cleaning all the wells before putting them in use is therefore paramount to ensure the return of people displaced by conflict.

Technically, cleaning wells from explosives is a delicate and dangerous job. The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) has cleared and cleaned already dozens of wells. But many more remain too dangerous to be used by the villagers. At average it takes two days for a specialized FSD team to carefully investigate and de-pollute a well which provides drinking water to some 50 families. The clearance-cost per well amounts to CHF 200 (USD 190). Approximately 350 wells need to be cleared and cleaned, providing water to around 90'000 civilians

Result report

The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) is grateful for the generous contribution from Citizens Of Our World (COOW) to our well clearance project. This initiative is a critical component of our ongoing mission to provide integrated humanitarian mine action to support the return of internally displaced communities in the North of Sri Lanka. During the war, open wells provided a quick and easy solution for retreating forces to dispose of unwanted munitions and it is only now that civilians are returning to reoccupy their houses and properties that they come across such hazards. Water is essential for life: one can go quite a few days without food, but no one lasts longer than 3 to 5 days without water and in the rural north of Sri Lanka, water is also required for agricultural activities such as the rearing of livestock. Therefore, in 2009, FSD established a well clearance project to ensure the safety of all the people in the former war zones and make mine-free wells available for the returnees. Currently, our well clearance capacity consists of four teams each of 4 staff members which uses a tractor and trailer for transportation. The contribution made by COOW will be used to support one well clearance team in Mullikulam village in Mannar district. There are 62 wells to be cleared according to our rapid assessments. The resettlement will be started after the mine clearance of the contaminated residential areas in this village. The COOW’s contribution gives a helping-hand to newly resettled people who struggle every day to make a living and bring hope for a better and safer life. Harshi Gunawardana Programme Liaison Officer Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) Sri Lanka



Alastair Coull's picture

This was the first project funded by Citizen Of Our World. It allowed the people of 5 villages to regain access to water and thus to move back to these villages. The impact was very strong and sustainable.