BARDIYA, April 26: Irregularities in valuation of land to be acquired for the Babai Irrigation Project have surfaced.
The project has made different valuations for land plots of similar nature, locals say. Locals voiced their objection after finding that the project office has made different valuations for four land blacks in Madhuban Municipality-6.
The locals have demanded that the project office revisit its decision and re-evaluate the land.
Construction work, which has picked pace lately, came to a halt due to differences between project officials and locals over land valuation.
“We have urged the project office to reconsider land valuation. If the decision is not reviewed, it will affect many people like us,” Om Nepali, a local of the area, told Republica.
Chief District officer of Bardiya, Narayan Bhattarai, also said that dispute between the project and locals due to compensation issue has reached a boiling point. “We have duly reported the issue to the Ministry of Home Affairs, stating that compensation distribution is not fair,” Bhattarai said, adding: “We will take further action only after hearing from the ministry.”
The project has started acquiring land blocks between Hulaki Highway of Madhuban Municipality to Parvatariya Temple of Gulariya Municipality. The project had set aside Rs 160 million for providing compensation to land owners in this section.
Man Bahadur Basnet, another local of the area, said there is a high difference in compensation amount for adjacent landowners. “This unilateral valuation is not acceptable for us,” he added.
The project office has valued land plots in range of Rs 700,000 to as high as Rs 5 million per kattha. The project has valued a land plot of Chandra Bahadur Bhandari of Madhuban-6 at Rs 5 million per kattha. However, land plot of his close neighbor Kriti Oli has been valued at only Rs 2.6 million per kattha. Locals fear the project office has connived with local realty developers.
“Many people in our locality have fragmented their land to prepare several 'residential plots', to get more compensation,” a local said. “Plotting of land is gaining pace here following rumors that plotted land will get higher compensation.”
Kunjan Bhakta Shrestha, chief of the project, said that land valuation was done as per the Land Acquisition Act. “Some people have complained, saying that they were offered lower price compared to others. How can the valuation done in the presence of people's representatives go wrong?” he questioned.
The project will provide irrigation facility to 40,000 hectares of land in southern Nepal.