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ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has expressed dissatisfaction over pace of land acquisition for 4,320 MW Dasu Hydropower Project despite allowing extension in timelines repeatedly to the district administration, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

The Bank’s representative conveyed his concerns at a recent meeting of Project Steering Committee (PSC), presided over by Minister for Water Resources, Ch Moonis Elahi.

The Project Director Dasu HPP briefed the forum that out of 5,051 acres of land, 4,214 acres have been acquired. Component-wise targets to acquire remaining land of 837 acres by June 30, 2022, as received from District Administration, were also presented to the PSC.

The Secretary Water Resources enquired from the District Administration if the component-wise targets were realistic. DC Kohistan (Upper) assured that the targets for the remaining land would be met as per the given schedule. Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) endorsed the timelines committed by the DC Kohistan (Upper) and assured his full support in the matter.

The representative of the World Bank showed dissatisfaction at the status of land acquisition and highlighted that the timelines had been extended multiple times by the District Administration. He further stressed that major portion of land for Karakoram Highway (KKH) -02, which is critical for project activities, is yet to be acquired. DC Kohistan (Upper) responded that 352 acres of land is required for KKH-02, out of which 280 acres would be acquired by February 28, 2022 through negotiations, while the remaining 72 acres would be acquired by Mach 31, 2022, through compulsory acquisition.

SMBR KP also assured the World Bank that the timelines for acquisition of the remaining land would be followed strict o sensu and no extension would be required this time.

The Secretary WR emphasised that Provincial Government of KP may avoid any transfer/posting of the staff working on land acquisition of the project in order to ensure smooth and timely completion of the process.

Progress on ESMR Package: Project Director, Dasu HPP apprised that there are around 2200 House Holds (HHs) who will get the ESMR package. At present, payments to 84 HHs have been made against 143 files submitted to the Payment Committee (PC). He further noted that around 100 additional files would be shared with the PC within a few days. DC Kohistan (Upper) added that subsequent to the 16th PSC meeting on December 16, 2021, a follow-up meeting of the Monitoring Committee, headed by Joint Secretary (Water), MoWR, was convened on December 28, 2021, wherein procedure adopted for ESMR disbursement was discussed and streamlined.

DC Kohistan (Upper) stated that there are a number of issues, for which SOPs have not clearly been defined; for example, a few victims own more than one house and they spend winters in one house while migrating to the other in winter. Similarly, he explained that

in many cases, multiple families are residing in a single house, with multiple kitchens. He opined that Wapda should devise a clear policy/SOP for making payments in such anomalous cases. The representative of the World Bank responded that the field issues highlighted by the DC should be resolved together by the District Administration and Wapda. He added that monthly targets need to be set for effective monitoring of ESMR disbursement. Moreover, the field issues highlighted by DC Kohistan may be dealt by District Administration and Wapda.

Secretary Water Resources, endorsed the World Bank’s viewpoint and stressed that operational level issues must be resolved on ground and only policy matters requiring guidance

decision, may be discussed in PSC meetings. SMBR proposed to have a follow-up meeting of Monitoring Committee immediately after the PSC meeting, to discuss and firm up monthly timelines for payment on account of remaining files.

Federal Minister for Water Resources agreed with the proposal of SMBR KP and desired that a follow-up meeting be convened by the Monitoring Committee to firm up the timelines for disbursement of the ESMR package.

132 kV Transmission Line issue in Pattan, Kohistan Lower-Project Director, Dasu HPP briefed the forum that Wapda has prepared a tentative cost estimate for provision of different power supply and development schemes in consultation with the District Administration of Lower Kohistan and Kolai Palas. Headed that the Commissioner Hazara Division needs to finalize the agreement with the locals after building consensus on the alternate proposals, as was decided in last PSC meeting held on December 16, 2021 adding that the cost estimate for the proposed schemes would be firmed up once the consensus with the locals is achieved.

DC Kohistan (Lower) apprised that he has held Jirgas with the locals wherein proposals of solar and micro hydel schemes, as a substitute for their demand of subsidized electricity, were discussed. However, many of the locals had serious reservations on accepting the alternate proposals, and stressed for fulfillment of their original demands. Secretary WR pointed out that DC Kohistan (Lower) was contradicting the statement given by Commissioner Hazara in the 16th PSC meeting regarding acceptance of alternate proposals by the locals wherein he had stated that locals had agreed to withdraw their previous demand of free electricity and had accepted alternate proposals, but there were always exceptions. The SMBR, KP stated that the alternate proposals could be a blend of some old and new schemes such as rehabilitation of existing hydel plants and installation of new micro hydro plus solar panels.

The Secretary Energy KP briefed that his team visited around 101 sites to finalize feasible locations for installation of micro hydel and solar panels. Secretary Water Resources emphasized that Provincial Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa needs to take the lead to reach an amicable solution to this outstanding issue. He further highlighted that since the financing of these alternative project proposals is available through World Bank loan therefore, only new schemes should be made part of the offer to locals.

The representative of World Bank stated that the alternate proposals would be financed through Dasu HPP loan only if these are executed by Wapda. He clarified that the Bank’s policy does not allow for carrying out such schemes as deposit works. He stated that if these schemes are to be executed through PEDO, government of Pakistan/Wapda would have to arrange funds on their own.

After detailed discussion, the Steering Committee directed District Administration of Kohistan Upper to expedite the land acquisition process of priority areas like KKH-02 and ensure the acquisition of remaining land by June 30, 2022.

The Monitoring Committee for ESMR package will hold a follow-up meeting involving District Administration and Wapda, to firm up monthly timelines for implementation of the ESMR package.

The Commissioner Hazara and his team shall finalize the agreement with the locals on provision of electricity through alternate sources, within three weeks, and submit it to the Monitoring Committee for review.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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