Bhaktapur, September 12
Indira Dahal Khadka has been tense since 2001 when her land in Katunje, Bhaktapur, was plotted for construction of pipeline for the Melamchi Water Supply Project.
She willingly gave the land for the pipeline, but after her land
was appropriated, the design of the project was changed, and her land was no longer needed for the project.
Laxman Twati, a local, also faces a similar problem. He was planning to send his son abroad for studies, but now he cannot get a loan for the purposed because his land has been attached. “I am helpless. I cannot utilise my own property to educate my son.”
Similarly, Samita Munakarmi developed heart problem due to stress because her house is located in the area of the Melamchi Water Supply Project. She is unable to think of anything because she fears her land will be attached and her house will be taken away.
More than 22 people of Katunje, Bhaktapur, are suffering because they fear the government will appropriate their land. They hope their land will be cleared from the Melamchi project .
The government started the Melamchi water supply project in 2000 with the decision that it would take land belonging to the public if it came under the design of the project by providing compensation.
It has been planning to lay the pipeline and construct water reservoirs in nine areas of the Valley.
For construction of the pipeline, the government decided to appropriate land in Katunje and published notice in this regard.
Khadka said, “We supported the government for the drinking water project in the beginning even though our property was on the land that would be acquired. But after the government announced clearance of land in 2003, saying it was not necessary for construction of the pipeline as the design had changed, we have demanded our land back.”
According to her, the government provided compensation for the land. Around 50 per cent of the people, with less than 15 anna land have received compensation, but 22 people rejected the compensation as their land covered more than 15 anna.
According to the Land Receipt Act 1978, those lands authorised by the government for a certain purpose should be returned if the purpose of the work is not completed. Locals have complained that the chief and the secretary at the official levels and the ministry are not willing to return their land.
She said, “If an ordinary citizen can understand the law, then why can’t officials, who have passed the Public Service Commission exams and who have studied the constitution? She demanded her land back from the government.
But government official have a different point of view regardingthe land.
Spokeperson of Project Implementation Directorate Lila Prasad Dhakal said, “We have returned the land that was not needed for construction of pipeline and reservoirs, but the land in Katunje has given rise to controversy. Half of the people have received compensation and half have rejected it.”
According to the Dhakal, the design of Melamchi Water Supply is not completed yet. That is why the land in Katunje has not been freed. He said, “We are preparing a long term drinking water project and the land in Katunje is necessary for the pipeline in the future. This is mentioned in the document.”
“We have provided compensation for land use but land owners rejected it. The land is necessary for the design of the second and third phase of the project design, so we cannot hand over the land to them,” he informed.
The project plans to supply water in the Valley by 2017, while the entire project will be completed in 2020.
Dhakal requested the people of Katunje to receive their compensation on time as the budget will collapse after completion of the project and they will not be able to get either their land back or the compensation in future.
A version of this article appears in print on September 13, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.