Arughat residents unsure of future : Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project


    Jan 3, 2016- Residents of Arughat where the 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project has been proposed are uncertain about their relocation due to the government’s delay in initiating land acquisition process.
    The project, located on the border between Dhading and Gorkha districts, will affect 17 VDCs in Gorkha and 10 VDCs in Dhading.
    According to the government, the massive earthquakes and subsequent trade embargo by India have delayed their plan to relocate settlements.
    As Arughat earthquake victims continue to live in temporary shelters, they face a dilemma whether to reconstruct their destroyed houses or wait for the government to move to a new location.
    “The historic Arughat market has not only been hit by the quake and the embargo, they are also uncertain about their future,” said Dinesh Dhaka, president of the Project Stakeholders Concern Committee. Before the earthquake, Arughat was well known as the gateway for many foreign trekkers to Manaslu and Larke-pass.
    “A number of lodges and restaurants used to see full tourist occupancy during the trekking season. However, since the last eight months, only a few trekkers have been using the route,” said Buddhi Prasad Shrestha, president of Arughat Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
    Although political leaders frequently promise to initiate their resettlement process with a reasonable compensation during their visit to their area, nothing concrete has been managed so far.
    “The then Energy Minister Radha Gyawali during her visit had also urged the affected people to only build temporary homes stating that the government had planned to resettle them by July,” said Dhakal.
    The government has picked the storage-type Budhi Gandaki as one of the potential hydropower projects where half of the $1 billion credit line offered by India will be spent. The estimated cost of the project is more than Rs250 billion.
    Due to the series of bad events in the country, Arughat now wears a deserted look. “A big shop here used to make a daily transaction of Rs500,000 to Rs1.5 million before the earthquake, but now traders have started shifted their business elsewhere,” said Surendra Shrestha, an owner of a wholesale shop in Arughat.
    Laxmi Devkota, chairman of the Budhi Gandaki Project Development Committee, said the government has planned relocating 8,117 households located in the area with reasonable compensation by this fiscal year.
    “The development of this storage-type power project has become the need of the hour and it could reduce the country’s power dependency,” he said at an interaction organised to brief about the project status.
    “The relocation of their settlements would have been completed by now, but the quake and the fuel shortage has pushed it back.”
    The project will also help irrigate fields in Chitwan, Nawalparasi and Dhading.

    Source : eKantipur