The district administration failed to persuade angry land owners in Dasu, affected by the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, who continued to block the Karakoram Highway for the third consecutive day here on Sunday.
They were protesting against the delay in payment of the compensation for the land the government had acquired for the dam as well as against the establishment of a police post by the Gilgit-Baltistan in the limits of Kohistan.
The Wapda acquired 162.5 acres in 2006 for a residential colony for its workers associated with the project. They promised to pay Rs262 million to the land owners as compensation.
Infuriated by what they referred to as delaying tactics, over 1,000 residents of different parts of Kohistan District blocked the Karakoram Highway at Harban Nala Bridge in Tehsil Dasu on Friday, completely suspending traffic on the road inconveniencing commuters.
Hundreds of trucks loaded with vegetables and other goods were stuck in the traffic; passengers including women and the elderly had to walk for two kilometres to catch public transport from Harban Nala, as there is no alternative route to Mansehra and adjoining towns.
The protesters vowed to continue their protest till their demands are accepted by President Asif Ali Zardari, who will inaugurate the project on October 18.
The representatives of the affected villagers demanded in the last week of September that the government pay the 1,100 land owners of Kohistan before October 1.
The district administration called a jirga of local tribal elders and requested them to put an end to the blockade. The tribal elders, including some former parliamentarians, parleyed with the protesters without any success.
Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Umerzai told The Express Tribune that Wapda has transferred Rs90 million out of the total compensation amount of Rs262 million in the commissioner office’s account. The remaining amount will be transferred after November 15, he said.
The $8.505 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam is being built on River Indus about 300km upstream of Tarbela Dam and would produce about 4,500 megawatts. It is scheduled to be completed by 2016.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.