LAHORE: A crucial meeting of the Dasu Hydropower Project’s Steering Committee was postponed again for a second time, delaying discussion and finalisation of the already tardy land acquisition and compensation to people to be affected by the project under a recent and jointly agreed formula.
The meeting was first tentatively scheduled to be held on January 8, but it was later rescheduled for January 24. But again, the meeting couldn’t be held due to engagements of top officials including the federal minister for water resources and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, Dawn has learnt.
“The steering committee meeting was scheduled for Thursday (January 24). But, later, it was conveyed to members that the meeting would now be held by next week’s end,” a senior official told Dawn on Friday.
World Bank has thrice extended the deadline for utilisation of funds approved in 2014
Holding of the meeting of the project’s steering committee is important in terms of studying the report of a special committee constituted to negotiate with landowners, making them agree to surrender their land required for the mega civil works of the 4,300MW Dasu Hydropower Project.
“The special committee was all set to submit its preliminary report to the steering committee in the scheduled meeting on Thursday, but it was postponed again,” the official, requesting anonymity, said.
He said the report had been prepared after holding a series of meetings with the landowners, local MNAs, MPAs, notables etc. The report, he said, suggested the government to accept the landowners/affectees’ demand of award of compensation to them according to the formula applied for compensating landowners/affectees of Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
The financial impact arising in the wake of accepting the affected people’s demands is approximately three per cent (Rs18 billion or so) of the total project’s cost (over Rs600bn) for two stages of this mega project.
“If the special committee recommendations’ are accepted by the steering committee, the matter would be referred to Ecnec for final approval,” he said.
Located on the Indus, some 240km upstream from the Tarbela dam, and in the Kohistan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the project is being funded by the World Bank that, for a third time, has extended deadline for one year for utilisation of the funds approved in 2014.
The main reason for non-utilisation of the funds is attributed to the land acquisition. The members of the special committee, which was constituted last month with the directive to compile and submit a report about the meetings, demands of the affected people, financial impact (in case of acceptance of demands) and recommendations, have worked out a detailed assessment regarding change of land categories (residential, commercial, agriculture, barren, etc), additional cost, etc, under the formula applied for Bhasha Dam’s land acquisition.
“The assessment worked out by the committee is in line with the affected people’s demands. Affidavits have already been taken from them that their demands would not increase further in future,” the official said.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2019