A large majority of the people affected by the Mangla Dam Raising Project (MDRP) have vowed to resist filling of the dam to its maximum level for as long as they are not fully compensated. They said to register their protest they will hoist black flags on top of their homes along the bank of the dam and will not vacate even if the water level starts to rise.
“We are not against raising of the dam’s water level,” said Sajaad Qayyum Khanpuri, a representative of the people of Khanpur affected by MDRP, “but it was enjoined upon the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) to resettle and rehabilitate the affected people before completion of the project.”
He told The Express Tribune that given the high level of inflation, the market value of the lands taken from the locals is much higher than the amount paid to them by Wapda. Moreover, he said that in contrast to claims by Wapda authorities, construction of new houses for the affected people in New Mirpur city and four small towns in Islamgarh, Siakh, Chakswari and Dadayal localities have not been completed.
Khanpuri said that cases of thousands of people affected by the project are currently pending with the various committees of Wapda and the Mangla Dam Resettlement Organization, adding that the not even half of the over 100,000 people affected by the project have been compensated so far.
The representative quoted a recent statement by Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, who said that sector D in the New Mirpur City is “unsuitable for living” due to the lack of basic civic facilities there. He said the premier had also told Wapda authorities to speed up the development work.
Chaudhry Abdul Qayyum, who represents all the people affected by MDRP, said that the AJK government is seems to have “double standards”. “On one hand it is remaining silent over announcements by Wapda about the raising of Mangla Dam’s waterline up to its maximum level of 1,242 feet, while at the same time it is assuring the affected people that Wapda will not be allowed to raise the dam’s water level till they are fully compensated and evacuated from the area,” he said.
Majid Dildar of the Young Action Committee of Mangla Dam Affected maintained that the members of the allotment committees were not consulted in the process of land and house allotments. He alleged that the allotments were not made on merit and accused local bigwigs of appointing their blue-eyed people in the newly-established public sector organisations in New Mirpur city, instead of giving employment opportunities to the youth affected by the MDRP.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.