Locals protest China-sponsored project in Damak


Locals have been protesting against China-sponsored Damak Clean Industrial Park in Damak Municipality, demanding adequate compensation for the acquired land and transparency regarding the Chinese investment project located in Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s home constituency Jhapa-5.

On Tuesday, one such protest was organised by Federal Limbuwan Forum, one of the constituents of the Federal Democratic National Forum. It attracted almost 5,000 protesters from among indigenous nationalities and other marginalised sections of society.

Chairperson of Federal Democratic National Forum Kumar Lingden told THT that they organised the protest as 150 households who had been living on government land in Damak Clean Industrial Park area for many years had not been paid compensation by the government.

“The government says that the proposed industrial park will create thousands of jobs, but what will be its use if thousands of locals are dispossessed of their land and resources and have to migrate to Assam or other parts of India to work as daily wagers?” Lingden wondered.

He said people close to the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) had prior information that an industrial park would be built in the area, purchased land plots at cheap rates from locals, and were selling the plots at much higher prices.

He said locals should be informed about all the process of industrial parks and should not be tricked. He said the government needed to form an all-party committee to address locals’ grievances.

“Our concern is that the project won’t do any good if thousands of locals are rendered homeless or jobless and outsiders are employed in the industrial park,” Lingden said.

Jhapa District Incharge of Sanghiya Limbuwan Manch Bhanu Bhattarai said, “Building an industrial park in Jhapa and creating infrastructure for development is good, but people complain that the government is not giving them enough compensation or telling them about the project.”

Chief of Kamal Municipality Menuka Kafle said there were around 30 households in her local level who could not make land ownership documents due to the land mafia’s manoeuvres and the municipality was trying to address their concerns.

Political Sociologist Uddhab Pyakurel said China was acting as a development fundamentalist and under its Belt and Roads Initiative the northern neighbour was pursuing unsustainable development model ignoring the concerns of locals and ecological aspects of infrastructure project.

He said Nepal should be cautious about involving Chinese companies in its infrastructure development projects.

“China does not care about locals.

It thinks once infrastructure is built, everything will be okay but such a model cannot be termed a sustainable model of development,” added Pyakurel.

He said locals’ protest in Jhapa reflected flaws that the Chinese model of development had. He said the government of Nepal needed to focus on involving local Nepali human resources in foreign investment projects.

Chief Executive of the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs Sunil KC said building industrial park in Damak was a good idea, but the Chinese side’s intention must be clear and the Nepali government should also be clear what it would gain from the project.

“As Nepal is strategically placed between India and China, the Nepali government should also have geo-strategic consideration before launching any project with foreign investment,” he added.

President of Damak Clean Industrial Park Govinda Thapa said the existing framework provided enough opportunities for redressing locals’ grievances.

He said the project would witness some delay due to the COV- ID-19 crisis.

According to him, the Chinese side will build the project with its own money and would hand it over to Nepal after 40 years.

The project will come up at Damak, Gaurahadaha, and Kamal local levels covering 2,100 bighas of land (one bigha = 6,772.63 square metres).