Narahari Sapkota/Republica People affected by the Budigandaki Hydro Project stage a sit in protest demanding immediate release of compensation at the project's field office in Gorkha in this recent picture.
GORKHA, April 29: Two years ago, land acquisition deal for the Budhigandaki Hydro Project was finalized and the land to be acquired for project was blocked from sales. However, the owners of the land have still not received the compensation for the land. Let alone distributing compensation, the government has not yet fixed rate of the land in some cases.
“We have demanded that the rate of the land to be acquired for the project needs to be fixed without further delay. In Arughat, Arkhet and Dhading this is yet to be done. Locals are quite disappointed,” noted Purna Dahal, chairperson of Arughat Rural Municipality.
One among the national pride projects, Budhigandaki Hydro Project had initially pleased locals. No wonder the capacity of 1,200 megawatt was going to change the face of the entire region. But even after decades, things have not progressed. The feasibility study of the project was done three decades ago. During this period, on many occasions it has become a hot topic in the parliament and during Indo-Nepal bilateral talk. However, apart from some plot acquisition, it has taken no further pace.
Major demand of the locals affected by the project is the immediate distribution of compensation. Once they get compensation, they plan to start their resettlement process.
“People are still supportive of it. They want to see the hydro project coming in shape. But the government should also be sensitive towards the plights of the people. Isn't it?” questions Dahal.
Major demand of the locals affected by the project is the immediate distribution of compensation. Once they get compensation, they plan to start their resettlement process, they say.
“Where to go, what to do, is not people's worry. Once they get due amount they are willing to resettle somewhere else,” Dahal reported.
Just recently, affected families forced Arughat market to shut down to pile pressure on local authorities for addressing their demands. Since the transaction of the land was blocked long back, they asked for being compensated in a justified manner, Dahal shared. “However, their demands have not yet received the attention of the authorities concerned. How many times should people take to street for a single demand?” he questioned.
In some areas, the government has already fixed the land price. However, they have also not received compensation, except for a few households. The government had started the distribution of compensation two years after acquiring the land. However, both distributing of the compensation and fixing rates of all the land plots to be acquired is still not completed.
According to Hareram Dhakal, president of Budhigandaki Hydroelectric Project National Concern Committee, the government's pace of distribution of compensation is so slow that it is going to take a decade to take this to the end. “The displaced people are asking for compensation. Though the government has been giving it, the pace with which it is working it will take more than a decade to complete it,” he stated.
The delay has left the affected population worried. One of the concerns among them is that the gap between the date on which the land rates is fixed and the date on which the landowners will get it. “Either the government must review the rate when it gives to us to adjust it to inflation. Or it should release the money as soon as it is fixed. If it provides the same compensation fixed some years back, it won't be justifiable,” he explained.
He also informed that massive swaths of fertile lands will be covered by the project. In Tandrafaat, Baluwatar, Ghatbesi, Jyadulfat and Darbungfat, among other areas, the project's dam will inundate huge stretch of alluvial lands. “Such gold piece lands are going to be affected. Yet locals are ready to leave it. Still, the government has not been serious about their concerns,” Dhakal stated.
Once the project comes into operation, people have expected that it will open avenues of opportunities in Dhading and Gorkha, apart from greatly contributing to the country's hydro sector.
According to a youth displaced by the project, Hari Simkhada, locals are still excited about the project and suggested that the government should comprehend such spirit. “Leaders have made tall promises to the people who are displaced by the project. We have been promised of employment opportunities. Hopefully, this time something might happen, we are very hopeful,” he said. Thousands of people from Gorkha and Dhading district will be directly affected by the project.