Land-related issues biggest headache for infra projectsDespite issues related to land acquisition being identified as a major hindrance to the development of infrastructure projects, not much attention has been paid to removing them.
Despite issues related to land acquisition being identified as a major hindrance to the development of infrastructure projects, not much attention has been paid to removing them. As a result, disputes over compensation amounts and right of way have continued to hinder the country’s infrastructure development efforts.
Highway projects, hydropower plants and large factories, all have suffered from land-related issues and encountered cost and time overruns. A majority of the national pride projects including Mid-Hill Highway, Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track, Thankot-Chapagaun-Bhaktapur transmission line, Kabeli Corridor, Sikta Irrigation project, among numerous others, are having serious problems related to land acquisition.
The government had planned to set up a tribunal to rush settlement of land-related issues, but it has not happened. The current land laws date from 1977. “Most of the ministries involved in infrastructure projects have failed to post satisfactory results, and a majority of their complaints are related to land acquisition. I have been hearing about land issues for the past two decades, but nothing much has been done,” Energy Secretary Suman Prasad Sharma told the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resource Committee (AWSC) on Thursday.
“There is a need for action now. The government should take concrete steps to address the issues.” According to Sharma, issues related to
land, forests and the
environment, in particular, should be cleared by the government to expedite infrastructure projects.
AWSC Chairperson Gagan Thapa criticized the government for not acting decisively on the matter despite frequent pledges. “I remember the former chairperson of the Nati-onal Planning Commission promising to take concrete steps regarding land related issues at this very forum last year. However, nothing has happened,” Thapa said.
The line ministry responsible for making laws seems to be apathetic about the difficulties being faced by infrastructure projects. Mohan Krishna Sapkota, secretary of the Ministry of Land Reform and Management, said that the ministry had been working to formulate new laws on land acquisition, but he had no information on how much progress had been made.
“All I can say is that it is in the pipeline,” Sapkota said. “We are aware that land-related issues have been
causing problems for infrastructure projects. But getting a new act passed is a complicated process, and we are still working on it.” According to Kumar Pandey, secretary general of the Independent Power Producers Association Nepal (Ippan), the government should form a common desk under the leadership of the Ministry of Energy, the National Planning Commission or the Office of the Prime Minister to sort out such issues.
Apart from land acquisition, issues like demand for high compensation amounts by locals, lengthy bureaucratic process, lack of coordination between ministries
and government agencies
and regular fuel supply should be addressed for timely construction of infrastructure projects.