Plans afoot to amend Land Acquisition Act

KATHMANDU: The government is preparing to make amendment to Land Acquisition Act (LAA) 1977 in line with Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy introduced last year. The change in the law is expected to pave way for easy acquisition of land for implementation of infrastructure projects.

After the government faced hurdles in land acquisition in development of projects related to hydropower, roads and railways, among others, the need of a comprehensive land acquisition policy and law had been felt for a long time. And to address the policy gap, National Planning Commission (NPC) about 10 months ago had introduced the policy for land acquisition and relocation and rehabilitation of people who would be affected while implementing the infrastructure projects.

Addressing a national dissemination workshop on the policy today, Govind Raj Pokharel, vice-chairman of NPC, said that the process of acquiring land for projects had been difficult for social and political interference even though it is not that tough for the government to acquire land as per ILO Convention. “Since we are transitioning from traditional agriculture to infrastructure development, it has created hurdles in land acquisition,” he said.

The policy, among others, has envisaged ensuring timely availability of land for infrastructure projects, resettlement and rehabilitation of affected people, preparation of a scientific standard for land valuation and extension of compensation for land equivalent to minimum market price. As per the policy, the government can acquire land forcefully for the development of projects that are of public interest giving appropriate compensation.

In the programme, Kenichi Yokoyama, country director, Nepal Resident Mission of Asian Development Bank (ADB), said that the country needs to increase capital expenditure and prepare strong infrastructure to achieve the status of a developing country by 2022. “The policy would be central to the development of infrastructure projects,” he said, adding that development focus should be on sectors including energy, tourism and urban development.

Participants in the programme said that the government should give a legal backup to the policy by amending the LAA at the earliest. Suresh Man Shrestha, member secretary of the NPC, said that the law should be revised in such a way that it makes acquiring land for any project easy, ends contradicting rules of different government agencies. “Many times, Forest Act has been a hurdle in acquiring land,” he added.

Yuba Raj Bhusal, former secretary of the government, said amendment to LLA alone would not help speed up land acquisition as there are a total of 15 laws that are related to land. “The government laws should be complement rather than contradict one another,” he said while addressing a business session of the workshop.

The Ministry of Land Reform and Management has already prepared a draft of amendment to the LAA and sent it to the Ministry of Law and Justices.

Nagendra Jha, joint secretary of the Land Reform Ministry said that they would change the draft based on the policy and feedbacks from the workshop.

At present, project developers are acquiring land to develop various physical infrastructure based on existing LAA, which has failed to properly address issues such as the pricing of land to be acquired and rehabilitation of people who have to be relocated from the area where projects are being built.

Saroj Basnet, land valuation expert said that to make the land valuation systematic, the government should prepare a national land valuation reference index and formulate a separate national valuation bureau to validate land valuation.