Airport project offers substitute landThe Pokhara Regional International Airport Construction High-Level Facilitation Committee has decided to offer substitute land elsewhere to local landowners
The project has been stalled with agitating locals demanding Rs 1.20 million to Rs 1.80 million per anna as compensation for their land although the government has fixed the compensation at Rs 125,000 to Rs 250,000 per anna depending on the type of the plot.
The government had initiated land acquisition to start the preliminary work of the airport project from the current fiscal year by clearing all the roadblocks. A meeting of the facilitation committee headed by lawmaker Rabindra Adhikari held on Saturday asked landowners not satisfied with the government offer to register their complaints at the project office by stating the reason for their dissatisfaction.
“The committee also decided to ask the government to arrange alternative land for them,” the airport project said in a press release. Although the committee decided to go for alternative land, it also decided to ask the locals first to accept the compensation offered by the government so that the construction of the much delayed national pride project could begin.
Currently, 133 families around the proposed airport are threatening to obstruct the construction of the project demanding higher compensation.
At least 10 people were injured in a clash between locals and the police last week over the issue of compensation after the police intervened to prevent the agitating locals from padlocking the project office.
Although the government had acquired the land for the project some 40 years ago, it planned to acquire an additional 639 ropanis to build a bigger airport.
Lawmaker Adhikari said that the option of giving alternative land was offered as per the understanding with government officials who are also in the facilitation committee.
The committee consists of lawmakers, representatives from the political parties, civil society and journalists, among others.
“As the construction of the airport is very important, the land acquisition problem should not hinder the project,” Adhikari said.
The committee also decided to form a compensation sub-committee under Bindu Thapa, president of the Pokhara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to facilitate the payment of compensation for the land acquired. It also decided to induct civil society member Ram Bahadur Poudel into the facilitation committee.
Likewise, the committee decided to form a development and construction sub-committee, headed by lawmaker Sharada Poudel and consisting of other lawmakers from Kaski, to identity the development problems being faced by the project-affected people and implement a development master plan for them. Last October, the Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the construction of a regional international airport in the tourist city of Pokhara after the Tourism Ministry convinced the Finance Ministry that the estimated $215.96 million cost was realistic. The Finance Ministry has sought a loan from China Exim Bank to finance the project. The Chinese bank has agreed in principle to fund the project. A senior Finance Ministry official said the Chinese bank was currently assessing the project.
The Finance Ministry had initially expressed reservations about the project cost terming it “unrealistic”. But its doubts were cleared after a high-level panel from the Institute of Engineering, Pulchok formed by the government showed that the project would cost over $216 million. The airport construction contract has been awarded to China CAMC Engineering Co.