Land compensation amount fixed for Budhi Gandaki projectLandowners will receive payment ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs700,000 per anna, according to an official.
A compensation fixation committee has fixed the compensation amount that will be paid to landowners whose property will be inundated when the reservoir-type Budhi Gandaki Hydroelectric Project gets built.
A dam will be constructed on the Budhi Gandaki River that will create a lake behind it to store water to turn the turbines of the 1200-megawatt plant. The project straddles Gorkha and Dhading districts, and the chief district officers of the two district head the compensation fixation committee.
Last week, the government extended the tenure of the project's compensation distribution unit as it was running late. If the compensation amount fixed by the panel is approved by the Energy Ministry and the Cabinet, officials can go ahead with the process of publishing the details of the land that will be taken over for the construction of the project.
“Depending upon the land condition, the owners will receive compensation ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs700,000 per anna,” said Krishna Karki, coordinator of the Budhi Gandaki Environment, Compensation Distribution, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Unit.
The government is yet to distribute compensation for 1,770 ropanis of land in Dhading and Gorkha which will be flooded after the reservoir scheme is built.
The decision has come four years after the government froze the land in question, irking locals who have been demanding a quick settlement of the issue and fair value for their land.
The denizens of Arughat and Arkhet in Gorkha and Khahare in Dhading have been demanding Rs2.5 million per anna. They had organised multiple protest programmes against the delays in fixing the compensation amount.
The compensation fixation committee fixed the payment amount after classifying the land needed for the project. The land in Arughat has been divided into nine categories, and the land in Arkhet has been classified into two groups.
According to Asman Tamang, chief district officer of Dhading, the rates have been recommended depending on whether the land adjoins highways or support roads, and whether it is linked by branch roads or narrow lanes.
The landowners in Arughat and Khahare market areas will receive up to Rs700,000 per anna.
The government has allocated around Rs15 billion in the current fiscal’s budget for compensation payouts. So far, it has spent around Rs20 billion to acquire land in 27 settlements in Gorkha and Dhading districts.
According to the unit, payments totalling Rs26.84 billion have been issued to acquire 44,658 ropanis of land till date.
Tamang said paperwork to provide 100 percent compensation for guthi land and land occupied by squatters had been sent to the Energy Ministry. The cabinet will set the compensation amount for such land after deducting depreciation, he added.
Budhi Gandaki is one of the most talked-about projects, and the first feasibility study was conducted in 1984 as it was viewed as a mutual benefit project with India.
The project never came out of the drawing board until the second feasibility study was completed in 2014.
Now the authorities have fixed the compensation rates for around 30,000 ropanis of land in Gorkha and 28,000 ropanis in Dhading.
The government has estimated that around Rs60 billion will be required to complete land acquisition in the project-affected areas, and the Energy Ministry has targeted completing the property acquisition process within the current fiscal year.
The government has collected Rs37 billion from the public through Nepal Oil Corporation as infrastructure tax to pay land compensation. It has accorded top priority to the project's development, but it remains undecided over the development modality.
In September last year, the cabinet had directed the Energy Ministry to initiate the process to prepare a proposal, hold talks and strike a deal with Chinese contractor Gezhouba Group Corporation for the execution of the national pride project. But the plan fell apart.
The project landed in controversy after the then Pushpa Kamal Dahal led-government awarded the contract to the Chinese firm under an engineering, procurement, construction and financing model without competitive bidding.
In November 2017, the decision to award the contract to the Chinese firm was reversed by the subsequent Deuba-led government citing procedural flaws.
The Finance Ministry has also advised the Energy Ministry to go for competitive bidding by reducing the cost of the project.