EDITORIAL: Land acquisition

The 1977 Act should be amended in a manner that the project affected families do not feel that they are being cheated

The government is all set to make an amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, 1977 in line with the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy introduced last year. It has been felt necessary from all quarters that the 38-year-old Act has become redundant, and it has not been able to address the emerging challenges, such as the soaring prices of land in the mountains, hills and Tarai regions. The government and the private sector have been facing stiff hurdles in the acquisition of private lands for infrastructure development such as hydro power projects, airports, railways and roads. Considering the major barrier in the acquisition of private land the National Planning Commission (NPC) had come up with a policy for land acquisition, relocation and rehabilitation of those families to be affected after their land is acquired. A large number of families has to be either displaced or relocated or rehabilitated if a large scale development infrastructure is to be executed. But the government never considers making suitable preparation for the rehabilitation or relocation of the affected people, hence, causing prolonged dispute between the developers and the local community who do not want to be displaced from their ancestral land.

The policy has, among other things, envisaged ensuring timely acquisition of land for development projects, resettlement and rehabilitation of the project affected families, preparing a scientific mechanism for land valuation, providing the affected families with land in suitable areas and providing compensation to the families of the land acquired at par with the minimum market price. According to the 1977 Act the government can acquire the private land even forcefully by providing compensation as per the criteria set by the Land Reforms Office. But the government has not been able to enforce the law due to stiff protests by the local communities who also get political backing from major political parties. Without the development of infrastructure the country cannot lift itself from a least developed country to a developing one by 2022.

Many experts and even former secretaries who have worked for years in agriculture and forest ministries have pointed out loopholes in the Land Acquisition Act, Forest Act and other 15 Acts related to land. They have pointed out that low pricing of the land for acquisition and poor planning of resettlement and rehabilitation of the project-affected families are the major problems of land acquisition. The families who are to be affected due to the development of the project do not want to be displaced as they find their locality a lucrative place to live in and do other business. The 1977 Act should be amended in a manner that the project affected families do not feel being cheated and their economic condition does not get worse simply because of the acquisition of their land either by the government or private firms. Rather, the compensation to be offered to them should help enhance their socio-economic condition. The parliament also cannot ignore these factors while amending this Act that has failed to address the ground reality. The goal of all development projects must aim to make people’s life better, not worse.

Night bus service

The residents of the capital valley could do with night bus services. A few taxis ply during the night, and they charge more than what they do during day time. That the night bus service will be launched by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City in collaboration with Sajha Yatayat should be taken positively. The main purpose of operating such night services is to serve those working in the night shift in government and private organisations. Twenty large buses are to be procured. These 55-seater buses would be ferrying the passengers at night. This would provide safe and accessible means of commuting in the night as well as enhancing night life like in other modern cities.

The routes that these buses would be plying on are yet to be finalised. This should be done in such a manner as to facilitate the passengers residing in different part of the city after a careful study. All care must be taken so that the night bus services become feasible. This is a big and challenging undertaking to be provided with a budget of Rs. 100 million. Let us hope that these services work out.