Khokana residents protest against Kathmandu-Tarai ExpresswayLocals of Khokana in Lalitpur, that has become a hotbed for major development projects, have come out protesting against the Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway, putting forth number of demands.
Locals of Khokana in Lalitpur, that has become a hotbed for major development projects, have come out protesting against the Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway, putting forth number of demands.
The traditional Newar settlement of the southern Lalitpur has once again erupted against the construction of the Expressway, a project of National Pride. They cite reasons like threats to their cultural and religious heritage sites, indigenous identity as well as insufficient compensation for land acquisition for the project.
The settlement has been the hotspot for five major development projects—the Expressway, the Outer Ring Road Development Project, the Bagmati Corridor, a Satellite City, and a high tension power line.
Khokana residents have long expressed their dissatisfaction over these upcoming projects over insufficient compensation, not taking locals on board while designing development projects and the looming threats over their cultural sites.
The latest tide of protest has hit the locality after the Nepal Army, on the last Saturday, came to the project site in Khokana and started erecting a temporary camp with make-shift tents on private lands belonging to local residents. By Wednesday, there have been 14 temporary tents at the site along the Bagmati River corridor.
Residents say they have frequently informed concerned agencies to address their concerns before moving ahead with the project works.
According to Narendra Raj Dangol, a local of Khokana and a member of Jansarokar Samiti, a local group involved in negotiations with government agencies on behalf of Khokana residents, the Nepal Army had ensured them of addressing their concerns before beginning construction work.
“The Nepal Army had said that they would be addressing concerns raised by locals. Only then they will come to the site with bulldozers. But they have come here against their own commitments,” said Dangol. He added local residents had immediately come to the site to protest once they knew about the letter sent by the NA headquarters to the ward office asking the locals to co-operate.
Residents have not been also satisfied with the valuation of the land they have given to the project. Some of them have already received the compensation amount whereas others are still hoping for increment in amount.
“The amount we have received is not enough. Many locals have received the money as they desperately needed money for rebuilding their houses after the earthquake,” said Kanchhi Maharjan, who received Rs. 2.3 million for her land.
Gangalal Maharjan, who has accepted around Rs. 5 million for his 2 ropanis of lands, said even those who have already got the money and those yet to get it, are protesting hoping for the for raise in the compensation amount.
Besides asking for timely revision of the compensation paid for locals, one of the demands of the locals, their other major concern is protection of their cultural heritages around the project area.
They are pressing for conservation of historical area Ku-Dey, a site which residents relate to the origin of Khokana locality and a significant religious site Sikali hillock, where their ancestral temple and funeral area is situated. Khokana residents celebrate their annual festival at the Sikali. Some fear the Expressway project will occupy farmland, affecting livelihoods, as well as push their cultural sites to extinction.
“Most of people here depend upon agriculture. If these projects continue to grab our land then what will these people do? Also, our religious sites will vanish forever,” said Omkar Maharjan, a local resident of Lalitpur Metropolitan City—21, Khokana.
According to Dangol, nearly 14 ropani area of Sikali will go into the 76.2 km track that stretches from Khokana of Lalitpur to Nijgadh of Bara.
The Nepal Army, which is constructing the Expressway, has said putting up the tents was the part of the ongoing plan and it has not started any project related work as yet.
“Setting up the camp was already decided. We have not moved ahead with any works without consulting locals. We are aware about their concerns about compensation and their religious sites, which are under discussion,” said NA spokesperson Brigadier General Gokul Bhandari.
“We will not leave any stakeholders behind and move ahead especially in this project, which is a national pride project. The NA will create a win-win situation for all.”