Families affected in the wake of raising the height of the Mangla dam have threatened street protest and agitation if their demands were not met within a week.
While expressing concern over a recent statement by Pakistan’s junior minister for water and power in which he had categorically rejected the affected families’ demand for rehabilitation, they gave August 9 deadline to the government to meet give a schedule for completion of the process. In case of failure, they will launch protest demonstrations and agitation to press their demands from August 10.
The junior minister had reportedly declared in the Senate on Wednesday last that it was not possible for the government to allot residential plots to 8,000 extended families of the affected people.
“Wapda has, by now, categorically declared to fill water in the recently raised Mangla dam to the highest level of 379 metres (1,242 feet) by the end of this year. “Whereas, rehabilitation of the affected families, currently living in the areas falling in the water level on the periphery of Mangla lake have not yet been completed,” said Sajjad Qayyum Khanpuri, spokesperson for the Action Committee of the affected people.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Khanpuri revealed that Mangla Dam Resettlement Organisation (MDRO) has been given the deadline of August 9th to announce the schedule for completion of the rehabilitation of the local affected people.
“On expiry of the deadline, the affected families would start street protest and agitation and staging sit-in outside the organisation against its failure in timely settlement of the displaced families,” Khanpuri said.
He also declared that the street agitation would be followed by raising black flags atop their residences which are going to be submerged in the lake water in the wake of raising its level.
Khanpuri accused the state government of negligence and apathy vis-à-vis the rehabilitation of the affected people.
Khanpuri stated that it was time for the authorities to take immediate steps and address the woes of over 100,000 affected people and shift them to the alternative residential sites before raising of the water level.
“It is violation of the agreement reached between Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and the Azad Kashmir government on the rehabilitation of the displaced families,” Sardar Attique Ahmed Sadozai, secretary general of Young Action Forum of the affected people said.
“It seems that the Pakistan government has started taking u-turn from its commitment which it had made to the affected people for their complete rehabilitation before raising the water level in dam,” Sadozai said.
“The people of Mirpur have sacrificed their ancestral abodes and the graves of their elders twice for then sake of Pakistan - first at the time of Mangla dam’s construction in 1960 and now for raising its height,” he pointed.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.