Upper Karnali Hydropower Project sets off land rush


    karnali_siteDAILEKH, FEB 18 – People in Dailekh and adjoining districts have been rushing to purchase land in and around the proposed site of the Upper Karnali Hydropower Project in hopes of reaping hefty land compensations when the project is implemented.

    Most of them have been buying real estate in the Dab area of Dailekh on speculation that the project will pay out large amounts for their property when it starts land acquisition to build the power plant.

    Tilak Adhikari from Salkot, Surkhet recently bought 1.5 ropanis of land in Dab. “I purchased the land that cost Rs 500,000 in total with the expectation of getting employment, good compensation and shares in the project,” he said.

    The 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydro Project has been luring many people after a project development agreement (PDA) was signed to construct the

    plant. Among the speculators buying land here are people from Nepalgunj, Bardia and the Kathmandu valley.

    Jeevan Thapa from Sattala, Dailekh has also purchased a ropani of land at the project construction site. Though Thapa is also one of residents in the affected village development committee, he has purchased land at the main construction site too.

    People purchasing land here said they intended to carry out hotel business besides aiming to receive a good compensation amount for their land when it is acquired by the government. Some of these people are said to have abandoned their lands in the high altitude regions a few years back.

    According to Thapa, the population density has surged in locations like Dab, Ramagaad and Paltada in particular as a result of migration. “As the area now has a high potential to offer good returns to the people here, the local people should also facilitate the construction of the project,” said Thapa, adding that even those who were against the hydro project had sold their lands at high prices.

    Land prices have surged not only at the project construction site but also in the remote areas of Upper Karnali. According to the local people, many people have started migrating here with the expectation of getting jobs.

    Rahaph, Bhairavsthan and Raniban of Achham district, Pokhari Kanda, Chhapre and Salkot of Surkhet district and Sattala, Singaudi, Lyantivindrasaini, Nepa, Naulekatuwal and Khadkawada of Dailekh district are the main affected remote areas.

    The contractor of the project is slated to give 27 percent of the shares to the Nepal government while the country will also be receiving 12 percent (108 MW) of the energy produced free of cost. Similarly, the project is expected to provide jobs to more than 2,000 people and the government is projected to generate financial benefits of Rs 300 billion.

    The project will be acquiring 48.85 hectares of private land and 207.75 hectares of government-owned land. The project will affect an estimated 239 households while 46 households will have to be provided rehabilitation schemes. The construction of the project is targeted to be completed by 2021 and it is estimated to cost Rs 145 billion in total.

    In 2008, the government and an Indian company GMR had signed a memorandum of understanding to construct the Upper Karnali project. Likewise, the project development agreement was signed on September 19.

    GMR is said to be starting the construction in the next two years after managing a consortium to finance the project. The run-of-the-river hydropower project has one of the shortest tunnels running through a soft rocky mountain, and it has been claimed to be one of the cheapest hydroelectricity projects.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post