Kishanganga Power Project Comes At A Huge Cost23 August 2011
Srinagar: What has sparked off a major public concern, power giant National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) is all set to acquire at least 4200 kanals of land in Gurez area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district for construction of dam for the 330 Megawatt Kishenganga Hydro Electric Project. Official sources, privy to communication between the NHPC and the state government, said the Corporation would be acquiring 4283.17 kanals of land in Badwan, Khopri, Wanpora and Khandyal areas of Gurez after the Private Negotiation Committee (PNC)-a committee comprising of villagers and District Collector for negotiation on rates-fixed the acquisition rate at Rs 5.57 lakh per kanal. The development, which has raised many eyebrows, comes amid the Kashmir civil society’s clamour seeking return of power projects run by the NHPC in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The land acquisition, according to officials, would displace at least 150 families in these areas, though they would be compensated a “meagre amount of Rs 5 to 6 lakh each against a kanal of land.” The land acquisition has spared off a debate in the backdrop of Article 370 in the state which guarantees ‘special status’ to J&K and whereby no outside agency or person can acquire or purchase land, unless leased out through state government after proper agreements. While the state government claims that the “land would be acquired in the name of the state and leased out to the NHPC,” sources rubbish the claim. “How can the NHPC acquire the land? It is to be given to the Corporation on lease after working out proper agreement and terms of conditions between NHPC and the state government,” the Minister for Public Health and Engineering, Taj Mohi-ud-Din told Greater Kashmir. “We have to then transfer the land to the Corporation by way of lease. So far we have not signed the lease agreement. Wherever land for NHPC has been acquired, it has been leased out and not acquired,” he claimed. Officials, however, argue that “the land under question is proprietary land being acquired by the Corporation after paying full payment to the affected families.” “The Government is not wrong when it says the land is to be acquired in the name of the state. But the issue ends there. The land would only have the name of the state. Rest it would simply be acquired by the NHPC. In leasing out process, the lease rate is fixed, say at Rs 1000 to 15000 per year or per month against a particular patch of land. But here it is simple transfer-outright sale to NHPC in the name of state government,” the sources, well-versed with the entire acquisition process, said. “And the leased out land happens to be the one which we can get back tomorrow. Here the NHPC is constructing a dam which would submerge all the Gurez areas due to rising water levels. So where does the question of leasing it out arise?” Interestingly a senior officer in Bandipora administration endorsed the view. “It is the proprietary land wherein the affected families will have to be shifted and rehabilitated. “Right now, there is some land under the possession of Hindustan Construction Corporation, the executing agency for Kishenganga project. That is a leased out land because when the agency will finish the work, they will vacate the land and restore it back to the state,” the officer, who requested not to be named, told Greater Kashmir. He, however said, the land for the dam is being acquired by NHPC after proper negotiation with the affected families. “The land would be transferred to NHPC only after they give full payment to owners for which they have already initiated the process. But land owners have raised a demand that each of the affected family should be given one job in NHPC because the acquisition process would hit their livelihood. This is to be looked into by the Corporation,” the sources said. Official sources said on 25 October 2010, as per land acquisition laws, 15 days time was given to farmers to file objections, if any, against the acquisition of their land while the Private Negotiation Committee was held on 21 June 2011. “The land acquisition would not only cause displacement of families, who have been promised sky in the name of rehabilitation, it would affect the cultural identity of the Dard-Sheena community, something which is unique in Gurez. Once these people would be displaced, they would naturally be in a different culture and atmosphere altogether,” the sources said. “And it would give a severe jolt to the livelihood of the affected families who would, until now, harvest potatoes on the land for onward selling in public.” Gurez, according to observers, is set to go Pul Doda way-the historic highway town that has connected tourist hubs in Jammu and Kashmir for many years and has now disappeared from the state’s geographical map as the rising Chenab river waters washed it away. Pul Doda is the last point of the 50 sq km lake made of Chenab river water that feeds the Baghliar hydro-electric project downstream. While the majority of the population has shifted there in Pul Doda, about 180 families have recently resisted eviction, demanding rehabilitation. According to official sources, the land for rehabilitation of Gurez families has also been identified. An officer in Gurez had, however, made it clear to the state government that there was no land available in Gurez to rehabilitate them. “They shall have to be shifted out of Gurez or to the peripheries,” the sources said. In Badwan and Khopri areas, both land and houses are expected to submerge while in Warpora and Khandyal, only land will submerge, sources said. As per the NHPC website, the proposed Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project would be located on river Kishanganga, a tributary of river Jhelum, in Baramulla district of Jammu & Kashmir. The project involves construction of a 37 metre high concrete faced rock-fill dam and an underground powerhouse. A maximum gross head of 697 metres is proposed to be utilised to generate 1350 Million Units of energy, in a 90% dependable year with an installed capacity of 3x110 MW.