Owners of land earmarked for the Suki Kinari Hydropower Project (SKHPP) have threatened not to sell their property if the government fails to pay commercial rates.
Headed by Hameedur Rehman, the action committee of affected landowners protested outside Mansehra DC’s office on Wednesday. Officials of the revenue, forest as well as communication and works department were also present.
The delegation of landowners told Mansehra DC Amir Khattak about their concerns. They said the project had several social, economic and environmental ramifications and that haunting memories of the past, especially Tarbela Dam, compelled them to resist the sale.
Landowners clarified they were not against the vital project as long as their compensation demands were met. The delegation told the DC that land being acquired from the villages of Andhera Bela, Puldran, Bhambli, Kairi Sosal, Jabiyan and others fell into the category of commercial property. They added the owners had few other sources of livelihood due to the rough terrain.
The landowners said the government fixed prices at Rs800,000 per kanal while the per square metre value of the property was no less than Rs8,000. There are over 505 square metres in each kanal of land.
They also demanded an increase in the compensation rate of houses and shops falling in the project area.
Former provincial minister from Kaghan Valley, Syed Ahmed Hussain Shah, termed the rates being offered to landowners an “injustice”. He reiterated authorities must pay compensation according to the commercial value of the land.
Meanwhile, DC Mansehra constituted an eight-member committee comprising members of different tribes. He said landowners and the action committee would hold meetings with the government and company executing the project to finalise the rates and settle other demands according to the law.
Hazara commissioner and Suki Kinari Hydropower Project executive director signed the agreement deed on behalf of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and project authorities in April 2014.
According to the deed, the divisional administration would ensure the acquisition of 4,418 kanals of land, including 1,200 kanals of reserved forest and 30 kanals of state land, for the project. The commissioner, on behalf of the provincial government, assured full cooperation and support to ensure smooth execution. Located on the snow water-fed Kunhar River in Kaghan Valley, the SKHPP would have a power generation capacity of 870 megawatts.
A study on the project was carried out by international consultants like Chas T Main, Montreal Engineering Company Limited, Nespak and GTZ (Germany) from 1960 to 2005 when the government advertised for development in the private sector.
SK Hydro finally conducted the feasibility study for the project through Mott MacDonald Ltd, sources said. Its expected date of completion is August 2020, they added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2015.