Barrister Sultan warns of 'worldwide' protests against Mangla project
18 September 2003
The Daily Times
LAHORE: Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry, opposition leader in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, has warned there will be 'worldwide' protests against the Mangla Dam raising project, which he called a 'conspiracy against the people of Mirpur'.The project is to raise the height of the Mangla reservoir from 1,202 feet to 1,252 feet, giving it an increased capacity of 3.1 million acre feet (MAF) of water, and WAPDA sources said the project should start by the end of the year, and planning work was in the final stages.Mr Chaudhry, a former AJK prime minister, claimed that the agreement signed between AJK, the government and WAPDA in April for the project was invalid because no true representative of the Kashmiri people had signed it. A senior WAPDA official rejected this, saying the agreement was final and the AJK government had signed it. Mr Chaudhry said the AJK chief secretary had signed the agreement on behalf of the AJK, but he was 'a Pakistani official'. He said that the people of Mirpur had serious reservations against the Mangla raising project as they believe it will 'drown' the city. He said the large numbers of Mirpuris living around the world were organising rallies against the project. 'It is sad that overseas Kashmiris who used to stage protests against India before the embassies of various countries will now be protesting against Pakistan,' he added.Mr Chaudhry claimed he had been presented the Mangla raising project when he was prime minister, and he had outlined three 'better' options in its place. 'Number one, simply by desilting Mangla, there will be more storage capacity; number two, dykes could be used to raise the walls of the dam; and third, construct small dams. It seems Pakistani officials are interested in the project because it gives them a chance to get their hands on a slice of the Rs 64 billion it will cost. This is a time whe nte international community has signalled it wants the Kashmir issue resolved. As a pro-Pakistan man, I feel this is a bad time for this issue to come up.' The agreement signed in April covers compensation to AJK for the raising of the dam, including Rs 29 billion on the resettlement of those displaced by the project. However, some sticking points remain. The AJK authorities complain that while WAPDA operates and maintains distribution network in the four provinces, the AJK government spends Rs 250 million per annum on the operation and maintenance of its own network.Some of the compensation clauses in the agreement are 1) 7,707 families, having landholdings of half an acre or more, will be compensated with Rs 200,000, subject to the scrutiny of their exact numbers. 2) People newly displaced will be paid land compensation at the market rate plus 15 per cent compulsory acquisition charges in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act. 3) House owners will be paid the actual market price (replacement cost) of the house and an additional 10 per cent. The displaced will also be allowed to keep the material (debris) of the houses.4) Refugees from Indian-administered Kashmir settled in AJK on WAPDA land will be paid a minimum Rs 300,000 per family and given a five-marla plot free of cost.5) One city and four towns will be built in Dodehal, Islamgarh, Chack Sawari and Siakh near Mirpur district in AJK for those displaced. 6) WAPDA will provide required infrastructure facilities. A major vocational training institute will be set up at Mirpur. Four new male vocational training centres will be established in the proposed townships and the four existing centres for females will be improved.7) WAPDA will withdraw its claims to outstanding liabilities of Rs 900 million from AJK and the AJK government will drop its claim with regard to reimbursements from WAPDA.8) A bridge at Dhan will be constructed from the project funds by WAPDA, while the authority will cater for the drawing of drinking water from the Dhan lake. The AJK government's requirement of water for irrigation purposes will be taken up with the Indus River System Authority (IRSA). Recreational facilities and fishing rights will be given to the AJK government.9) WAPDA will construct six grid stations and associated transmission lines, and net hydel profit (water usage charges) or royalty from Mangla will be given to the AJK government at the rate of Rs 0.15 per unit, around Rs 500 million per annum.