MANSEHRA: Landowners and tenants from Kaghan Valley threatened to disrupt construction work on Suki Kinari Hydropower Project (SKHPP) unless their five-point demand was met. After blocking a main thoroughfare a day earlier, they decided to reconvene after Muharram.
Led by former provincial minister Syed Ahmed Hussain Shah, tehsil nazim Rustum Khan, Fida Khan of Suba Hazara Tehrik and SKHPP Action Committee member Mian Ashraf, land owners and tenants from affected areas of Kaghan gathered in Paras and blocked Shahrah-e-Kaghan on Wednesday. As a result, vehicular traffic was suspended for over two hours.
Speakers said the provincial government had imposed Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act four years ago and announced it would acquire over 5,000 kanals of land for the project. However, authorities did not buy the land or cancel the imposition of Section 4. As a result, people cannot sell or buy the property for their agriculture and residential purposes.
They said the rate was fixed at Rs100,000 per kanal which was far less than the market rates. They claimed the value of their land was not less than Rs2 million per kanal.
They made it clear unless their five-point demands were met, the landowners would not allow contractors to start construction.
About the demands, the speakers said a separate grid station should be constructed for Balakot tehsil and residents should be provided free electricity from the dam. They added the per-kanal rates and prices of houses and other structures should be increased to market value.
Locals demanded a state-of-the-art hospital for Balakot tehsil and a residential colony for affected villagers. The landowners and tenants threatened to block the road and said they would lay down in front of passing vehicles. They vowed to protest across the Hazara division.
“The government should not make SKHPP another Kalabagh, but rather pave the way for smooth execution of construction on the project,” said former minister Shah.
Last year, the Hazara commissioner and Suki Kinari Hydro Power Project executive director signed the agreement deed on behalf of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and project authorities.
According to the agreement deed, divisional administration would ensure acquisition of 4,418 kanals of land, which included 1,200 kanals of reserved forest and 30 kanals of the state’s land.
Fed by melting snow in Kunhar River, SKHHP will have a generation capacity of 870 megawatts. The study for this project was carried out by renowned international consultants like Chas T Main, Montreal Engineering Company Limited, NESPAK and GTZ (Germany) from 1960 to 2005 when the government advertised for private sector involvement. The feasibility study for the project was finally conducted through Mott MacDonald Ltd, shared insiders. Its expected date of completion is August 2020, they added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.