Upcoming Bheri-Babai project unsettles squatter communities in the areaThe embankments being built for the project will likely deluge 30 houses in the banks.
Raju Thapa moved to Chhote in Lekbeshi Municipality from his native village of Dashrathpur four decades back. Since he didn’t own any land, he had to cut down the trees in the banks of Bheri River to build a house. This five katha of land is where he has been residing until today. Lately, however, Thapa is getting increasingly anxious, since an upcoming project, the Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project, has started acquiring riverside land for its construction.
“Since it’s public land, the government hasn’t informed us about compensation,” Thapa said. “But we have stayed here for so long. We don’t know where else to go now.”
Like Thapa, there are about 30 families who are residing in the riverside public land, the proposed area of the construction of the upcoming project. A report from the office of the project states the embankments being built for the project will likely deluge 30 houses in the banks. The government has started the process of distributing compensation to those who have land ownership certificates. However, it has remained tight-lipped about providing compensation to the settlers who have been occupying public land for decades. This has unsettled the squatter communities in the area.
“The government has been distributing compensation to those with land ownership certificate. But we are fearful since nobody from the government has told us where to go,” said Nar Bahadur Khatri, a local squatter. “I have a family of nine, and no one is employed. We don’t know what to do.”
Most settlers in the area make their ends meet by doing manual labour.
According to Padam Khatri, ward chief of Lekbeshi Municipality Ward No. 1, a total of 662 families in Bheri River’s banks are without land ownership certificates. He said that since those families have been residing in the public land for over three decades, his office had requested the Ministry of Land Reform and Management to provide them with land certificates. But the ministry has yet to reply.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring village of Gurbhakot, 40 households without land certificates are at risk of deluge by the construction of an embankment. “We have been making efforts to provide certificates and compensation to those without one,” said Madhu Gurung, chief of Gurbhakot Ward No. 13.
The office of the project is yet to collect data on those with and without land ownership certificate, but it has already announced that it will acquire 16 hectares of land in the area.
The project is expected to produce 48MW electricity and irrigate 51,000 hectares of arable land.