Land acquisition in Arkhet, Khahare and Arughat for Budhi Gandaki hydel project in limboThe government has spent around Rs26 billion so far acquiring land from 27 settlements in Gorkha and Dhading districts.
Harihar Singh Rathour
It’s been two years and counting that the residents of Arughat and Arkhet in Gorkha and Khahare in Dhading have been seeking compensation from the Ministry of Energy for the construction of the 1,200MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project. The project stands to inundate these areas if works move forward.
The locals of Khahare, Arughat and Arkhet have been frequenting the offices of the concerned authorities with demands for completing the land acquisition process with due compensation in the project-affected areas.
Sanju Shrestha, a local of Salyantar, said they have already met the CDOs, people’s representatives, lawmakers, the energy minister and the prime minister to settle the compensation issue as soon as possible, to no avail.
The government has spent around Rs26 billion so far acquiring land from 27 settlements in Gorkha and Dhading districts. The CDOs of Dhading and Gorkha jointly coordinate the Compensation Determination Committee. But the land acquisition process has been stuck due to the administration’s lackadaisical approach to the matter, locals say. The compensation rate for these three areas remains to be fixed, according to Krishna Karki, the project chief.
Asman Tamang, the chief district officer of Dhading, said they will fix the compensation rate after the project holds a meeting. Tamang said, “We have no intention to make the citizens landless or the state bankrupt.” According to him, the land acquisition process could not gather momentum as the locals have more expectations in terms of the compensation amount but the state can only offer so much.
Locals in Arughat have claimed compensation up to Rs 2.5 million for one aana of land. But the administration is trying to fix the compensation rate according to the valuation of the Land Revenue Office and the going rate.
Preferring anonymity, one of the project officials said that the committee could have fixed the compensation rate for the land long ago, but the local administration is wary of legal proceedings that may ensue if the locals reject the offer.
Last week, lawmakers, people’s representatives and land revenue officers of both Dhading and Gorkha districts and project officials held discussions on the matter. Karki said that the project officials are having a hard time settling on the compensation amount because of the high price quoted by the locals. “However, we are at the final stage of discussions. This time we may be able to fix the compensation rate.”
However, Shambhu Thapa, chairman of Tripurasundari Rural Municipality, said that people from other areas who received compensation two years ago have already moved out and settled down in other places. Thapa said, “The price of land has increased now. The rate of compensation cannot be the same as two years back.” According to him, the project should provide compensation for the loss in business activities as people moved out. He said, “Banks have stopped providing loans after the project started the land verification process. We have been demanding compensation and have asked for a certain amount evaluating all these aspects.”