Right of way disputes delay power line plans


    Mar 27, 2018-A task force formed by the Energy Ministry to identify a suitable modality to acquire right of way (ROW) from private landowners to construct transmission lines is yet complete its assignment even though more than a year has passed.

    ROW refers to the right to pass over property on which electricity transmission towers are erected.

    Project developers generally purchase land where structures like transmission towers and substations are built. But the land above which the electricity cables pass is leased from private landowners by acquiring ROW. In return, compensation worth 10 percent of the land’s value is paid to owners as per the existing provision.

    However, a majority of landowners who are required to transfer their land titles for the development of such projects are not satisfied with the existing provision and have demanded a higher rate of compensation. While a majority of landowners have demanded compensation amounts of more than 50 percent of the market value of their land, some have even asked for 100 percent of the market value.

    As landowners can’t build any infrastructure on the land after providing ROW to the transmission line project, they are not eager to settle for a low rate of compensation. They cannot plant trees on such land, and banks do not accept the property as collateral for loans. This leads to a drop in value of the land on which the transmission line project acquires an easement.

    Although Energy Ministry officials agree that the existing provision of providing compensation worth 10 percent of the land’s value is not fair, the taskforce has failed to come out with a modality under which landowners will agree to relinquish their property.

    “We have realized that the existing provision regarding compensation is not enough, and we are trying to come up with a suitable modality soon,” said Pravin Raj Aryal, joint secretary at the ministry and the head of the taskforce formed to recommend a modality. “We are also seeking help from various stakeholders including USAID, the US government’s aid agency, to come up with a modality to acquire an easement over private land and build the power lines.”

    Due to the absence of a modality, the construction of key transmission line projects of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the state-owned power utility, has lain in limbo.

    The construction of transmission lines like the 132 kV Thankot-Chapagaun, 220 kV Bharatpur-Bardaghat, 132 kV Kabeli Corridor, 132 kV second circuit of Middle and Lower Marsyangdi and 400 kV Tamakoshi-Kathmandu has stalled as the state-owned power utility has failed to secure ROW from private landowners to erect towers and pull electric cables.

    The NEA management has said time and again that difficulties in acquiring ROW has been one of the major problems they have been facing while expanding their transmission line network.

    Source: The Kathmandu Post