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LAHORE: A chunk of land measuring 14,325 acres (114,601 kanals) of the total 18357 acres of private land has been transferred finally to the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), paving way for the authorities to move forward for the execution of the 4,500MW Diamer Basha Dam project.

Its location is 40 km downstream of Chilas, the district headquarters of Diamer in Gilgit Baltistan. It will displace 30,350 people living in 4,266 households of 32 villages, situated above the dam site on both left and right banks of river Indus.

Read: Diamer-Bhasha dam land acquisition: Unrest among Chilas hoteliers over ‘meagre’ compensation

Total land required for the project is 37,419 acres which included 19,062 acres of state and 18,357 acres of private land under cultivation, barren and other uses. A sizeable number of government, community and business infrastructures will be affected by the project.

“We can say that we have completed 85 per cent of the total land acquisition and nearly 95 per cent of the land required for the reservoir alone. And since it was the long-awaited requirement for the project, we consider this a major achievement of Wapda during the last one year,” says Wapda’s General Manager (Human Resource Development, Land Acquisition and Resettlement) retired Brigadier Shoaib Taqi.

The land acquisition for the two of the total three proposed model villages and the piece of land along the disputed boundary of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and GB is a major bottleneck in the way of execution of the project. Among three proposed villages, land (687 acres) for Harpan Das has already been acquired where Wapda has developed community infrastructure and is ready for plots allotment to the affected people.

The land at other two sites for proposed villages is yet to be acquired due to certain issues affecting the pace of the project in this context. Development through providing community infrastructure/social services as schools, health facilities, roads access, mosques, community centre and market places has been completed. Layout plan for approximately 1,350 residential plots has also been developed.

“But the affectees of Khan Bari, Thor, Hudar and Chilas comprising 2,937 households want to be resettled in Harpan Das that is beyond the capacity of this village with 1,350 residential plots only. As an option we have proposed to link resettlement of Harpan Das with the completion of other two model villages—Thak Das and Sagachal Das,” Mr Taqi said .

The location at Thak Das has been identified jointly by the Diamer Basha Dam consultants, Wapda and respective district administration in 2009. Land for model village at Thak Das is 1522 acre, which is yet to be acquired. The inhabitants of Thak Das are not ready to surrender land for the establishment of model village. The location of other model village--Sagachal Das-- is about 80km away from the Chilas town. The site is communal land of inhabitants of Goharabad. Area of Sagachal Das is 526 acres (4207 Kanls). As the locals of Goharabad have refused to allow the affetees of downstream of Chilas settle in Sagachal Das model village, thus they (1,068 households) would be resettled at this site under the plan requiring 1,820 kanal for the development of infrastructure.

“Since we have succeeded in acquiring a major chunk of land (both public and private), we are now vigorously after the acquisition of remaining land (model villages, reservoir etc). Though the land acquisition is responsibility of the government, we are equally contributing to efforts to complete the entire land acquisition process. And if this process is not completed within a short span of time, the project execution may face further delay,” Mr Taqi warned.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2018