Compensation distribution delay infuriates locals

    • Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project

    Apr 19, 2018-Compensation distribution programme for those affected by the construction of the 1,200MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project has hit a snag due to delays made by the project office and officials of the concerned government agencies.

    The government allocated a budget of Rs10 billion in the current fiscal year to provide compensation to residents of Gorkha and Dhading districts who have relinquished their land for the construction of the $2.6-billion reservoir-type hydropower project. It has been more than nine months since the fiscal year began, but the project hasn’t released a single penny to landowners.

    “The central government has already released the pledged Rs10 billion. The money is now in the accounts of local authorities, but it has not been disbursed till date. We don’t know what is causing the delay,” said Krishna Dhamala, a local of Jyamrung, Dhading.

    Locals like Dhamala are infuriated as the authorities have barred transaction of land required for the hydropower project for the last three years. This means landowners can neither build anything on their property nor sell it. So people like Dhamala are facing problems in relocating as they do not have enough money to buy real estate in places away from the project site.

    Around three months ago, concerned authorities had sought documents such as land ownership certificates from landowners of Gorkha and Dhading, stating compensation amount would be disbursed soon.

    “We have since prepared all the documents to commence compensation distribution programme,” said Madhav Dhakal, chief of Survey Office of Gorkha, adding, “Our staff have worked overtime to complete the work.”

    Chief of the hydropower project, Krishna Karki, acknowledged the delay in compensating landowners. But he pointed fingers at survey and land revenue offices for the delay. “Those offices are short of staff, hence the delay,” he said.

    But locals said delays were caused by project officials, as they do not attend office everyday and lack experience in accounting.

    Beginning this fiscal year, the Ministry of Energy has directed the project office to take the lead in compensation distribution with support of authorities in the districts.

    “Despite these delays, we will distribute Rs5 billion each in Dhading and Gorkha districts before the end of the current fiscal year,” said Karki.

    The government had started compensation distribution programme for landowners affected by the project’s construction in the last fiscal year. In the first phase of the programme, owners of around 8,000 ropanis of land had received compensation.

    The 1,200MW national pride project is expected to affect over 8,000 households in Dhading and Gorkha districts. The reservoir of the storage project will submerge 3,560 houses and partially affect 4,557 households. The government has decided to provide compensation ranging from Rs524,000 to Rs835,000 for each ropani of land that locals relinquish for the project.

    The land to be acquired by the project has been classified into five categories by the government: paddy field, small farmland, land in market area, land adjoining a road and land near human settlements.

    Paddy fields and small farmlands have been further classified into four grades, with the first grade commanding the highest compensation amount.

    On top of the compensation fixed by the committee, it is offering 15 percent extra to those who own less than 5 ropanis of land, and 10 percent extra to those who own less than 10 ropanis of land.

    The government in May 2017 had hired China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) to build the mega project under the engineering, procurement, construction and finance (EPCF) model. However, parliamentary committees later directed the government to scrap the decision to hand over the project to CGGC.

    The House panels said that the government had breached the Public Procurement Act by selecting the contractor without conducting a competitive bidding process.

    Accordingly, in November 2017, the government revoked the agreement with the Chinese company and later said it would build the project using domestic financial resources.The project is touted as the key to making Nepal self-reliant in energy generation and paving the way for the country to become a net exporter of electricity.

    – Harihar Singh Rathore,

    Source: The kathmandu Post