The government has extended the tenure of the Environment, Compensation Distribution, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Unit of the Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project by one year.
This is the second time the government has given the unit a new lease of life to resolve issues pertaining to land compensation. It was established two years ago in line with the government’s decision to build the project under a company model.
According to the unit’s chief Krishna Karki, the extended tenure will last till October-end. The unit has been working to fix compensation rates and select areas for rehabilitation.
Preliminary work on the $2.5 billion reservoir scheme was initiated by the now-scrapped development committee seven years ago. The committee had prepared a detailed project report of the 1200 megawatt scheme and carried out land acquisition for the project office and an environmental impact assessment.
The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation wrote to the unit to fix the compensation amount for land located in market areas and human settlements in Gorkha and Arughat soon after the government decided to give it more time.
According to the ministry, the government has allocated ample funding in the current fiscal year to expedite the project’s work.
The unit received Rs13 billion to pay out compensation and carry out other tasks. Out of this money, it has spent around Rs600 million on land acquisition.
The unit has not been able to fix the compensation rates in Arughat, Gorkha and Bishalnagar and Khahare in Dhading. The project-affected people here have been protesting against the delay as the government froze their lands without paying compensation four years ago.
The land-owners who have announced a slew of protest programmes organised a sit-in at the unit’s office on Monday.
According to Dinesh Dhakal, a resident of Arughat, the project-affected people are ready to launch the second stage of their protest programme if the government does not pay heed to their demands within 10 days.
Government officials and the project office in the district have been blaming each other for the delay in fixing and distributing land compensation.
“It is the project office’s responsibility to carry out preparations,” said Debendra Lamichhane, chief district officer and coordinator of the compensation fixation committee. “We do not want to extend the issue further, and are carrying out discussions regularly, and the Energy Ministry has also sent its directions. The compensation amount will be fixed soon.”
The government is yet to fix the rates and distribute compensation for 1,770 ropanis of land in Dhading and Gorkha which will be inundated after the reservoir scheme is built.
According to the unit, compensation amounting to Rs26.84 billion has been distributed to acquire 44,658 ropanis of land till date. “We will soon fix the compensation rates unless we suffer obstructions,” said Karki.
Three separate task forces have submitted proposals on fixing land compensation in Gorkha alone. The report prepared by the task forces has sent the reports detailing property lines in market areas and the basis for fixing land compensation rates.
According to Lamichhane, preparations have entered the final phase as officials have classified the land, and the work related to outlining land plots for acquisition has concluded.
Budhi Gandaki is one of the most talked-about projects, and the first feasibility study was conducted in 1984 as it was viewed as a mutual benefit project with India.
The project never came out of the drawing board until the second feasibility study was completed in 2014. It is currently in a state of limbo as it is mired in politics.
The Kathmandu Post