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Wrangling erupts over Dasu power project meeting

Updated March 21, 2019

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File photo shows the site of Dasu power project.—photo courtesy pakworkers.com
File photo shows the site of Dasu power project.—photo courtesy pakworkers.com

LAHORE: The Dasu Hydropower Project, funded by the World Bank, now runs the risk of further delays as bureaucratic wrangling has broken out between the Ministry of Water Resources and other members of the steering committee that is empowered to make critical decisions regarding the project.

At issue are the decisions taken by the Project Steering Committee (PSC) in its 14th meeting on acceptance of demands of landowners and affectees on the issue of compensation and land acquisition for the mega 4,300MW hydropower project. The decisions were changed allegedly by the Ministry of Water Resources when the minutes of the meeting were circulated on March 15.

Participants who were present in the meeting tell Dawn that in reality an entirely different discussion took place from the one reflected in the minutes.

According to an email sent later by the WB representative to all steering committee members after receipt of the minutes agreed to the proposal of revising the compensation package to Rs36.914 billion and then forward the same to the Executive Com­mittee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for approval. “But the decisions outlined in the minutes of the 14th PSC meeting don’t reflect the decisions taken in the meeting. The ministry may have a different view, which it can take, but the minutes of the meeting should reflect what was decided in the meeting,” reads the email which was shared with Dawn by a recipient. “I also request you to follow up so that the minutes be corrected and revised to reflect the decisions of the meeting and not alternative truth,” the email states.

“It is really surprising that the actual decisions taken unanimously by the participants of the meeting presided over by the federal minister for water resources on March 5 were deliberately omitted in the minutes of the meeting prepared and circulated on March 15 among the members of the project steering committee,” he told Dawn. “At the end of the meeting, we even greeted and congratulated each other for resolving the longstanding issue of compensation to the landowners and affectees of land acquisition for the project. But why and how this happened, it is really surprisingly,” the official added, requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile Irfan Ali, who holds charge as secretary water resources, tells Dawn that the omission was necessary because Ecnec was the right forum empowered to approve any changes to the compensation package. “I do agree with you that the steering committee had accorded its recommendation over this package and the same should have been incorporated in the minutes of the meeting” he tells Dawn when asked about the omission. “But at the same time, I am of the view that the same proposal must be sent to Ecnec for an objective discussion and approval,” he adds.

He also admitted that there should be issuance of an addendum to the minutes of the meeting regarding recommendation of the steering committee on the revised compensation package.

In the meeting, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa’s Senior Member Board of Revenue told the members about affectees’ willingness over withdrawal of their demand of change in land category if the earlier negotiated land rates, approved by Ecnec in 2015, be escalated at the flat rate of 10 per cent (per annum) for all categories (accumulative 40pc for four years 2014 to 2018) and awarding compensation to them for houses /construction and development made on the land after imposition of Section-4 of the Land Revenue Act. He also explained that the land cost that was earlier Rs19.163bn would jump to Rs36.914bn if aforementioned demands of the affectees are accepted.

The minutes circulated after the meeting say that PSC member decided to circulate all options to various departments for comments, including Wapda, water division and others.

Mr Ali, however, is not convinced. “It is not a matter of one project alone, as we want transparency in all projects, including Dasu. So the steering committee recommendations will be honoured in this regard, as it is also an important forum,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2019