The Bheri-Babai Project’s impact has left many individuals unable to receive compensation

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 The house of Kamala Sunar of Bheriganga Municipality-8, Surkhet district, falls under the affected area of Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project. After the land acquisition, her family had to leave the land where they had been living for five decades. However, they have not received compensation for the acquired land yet.

Kamala’s two ropanis and nine aanas of land have been acquired by the project. Based on the Compensation Evaluation Committee’s recommendation, Sunar is eligible to receive Rs. 1.6 million as compensation. Kamala’s family, who had intended to secure a permanent residence with the compensation money, has been in a state of uncertainty for three years now.

Due to the lack of a valid permanent land ownership document, they are unable to receive compensation. “The project is progressing, and we are happy. But even after three years, we have not received compensation. We need compensation, or else give us a land ownership certificate,” she said.

Likewise, Gehendra Prasad Pandey of Lekbesi Municipality-1 has also had 20 ropanis of land acquired for the construction of the Project. He has already received compensation for 17 ropanis, but the remaining three ropanis, which he has been using, is unregistered land, making him ineligible to get compensation for it.

Most of those with valid land ownership documents have received compensation, but families like Sunar and Pandey, who lack proper land ownership documents, have not received any.

Over a hundred families from Bheriganga, Gurbhakot, and Lekbesi municipalities are still waiting for compensation. Among them, 86 families from Ward No. 8 and 13 households from Ward No. 9 of Bheri Ganga Municipality have not received compensation. They have been residing in rented land for a long time now.

Similarly, 13 families of Gurbahakot Municipality-14 and 49 families of Lekbesi Municipality-1 have also not received compensation. The reason is the absence of a valid land ownership document, which has made them ineligible to receive compensation.

Jebi Sunar, the coordinator of the Land Coordination Committee, stated that a total of 148 households without a land ownership document have not received compensation.

They have yet to receive the compensation even as the construction on the project has progressed rapidly. “The project has neither allowed to register our land, nor has it given us compensation,” Jebi said. The absence of a land ownership document in hand has created problems, he added.

According to Lekhnath Subedi, the Information Officer and Senior Divisional Engineer of the Project, the areas without valid land ownership documents in Bheriganga, Gurbhakot, and Lekbesi municipalities, amounting to 22.81 hectares of land, will be compensated.

He explained that there are three categories of landowners affected in the project area. The project will compensate to individuals with land ownership certificates, to those who have been allocated land but lack the certificates, and those who have been residing on unregistered land for long.

Subedi has informed that a final decision regarding providing compensation to landowners without land ownership certificates is still pending. He mentioned that the government has not made any official decision regarding those lands. For this, it needs to make a separate procedure to distribute compensation in such cases, he added.

So far, compensation has been distributed only to 55 households with land ownership certificates. The project has distributed Rs. 12.86 million in compensation. “Out of the acquired 10.19 hectares with land ownership certificates, compensation has been distributed for 8.114 hectares of land,” Subedi said.

As of now, 80 per cent of the landowners with land ownership certificates have received compensation.

Meanwhile, the landowners in the affected area have also demanded a meeting with the Minister for Internal Affairs and Law of Karnali Province, Krishna Bahadur GC, to address the issue.

Minister GC, for his part, said that the demand was legitimate and that he was ready to lead efforts towards finding a resolution.

He said, “Those who have been residing along the banks of the Bheri for years should be provided with land ownership certificates. The provincial government should take the lead in this initiative.”

Minister GC assured that the issue would be addressed collectively and that no one would have to leave his/her ancestral land empty-handed.

Source: The Rising Nepal