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Govt introduces land acquisition policy

Govt introduces land acquisition policy

The Himalayan Times 

March 10, 2015
Kathmandu, March 9: The government has introduced Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, paving the way for developers of various physical infrastructure projects to acquire land without affecting livelihood of people who have to be relocated from the area where such projects will be built.
The policy, which calls for creation of a scientific standard for land valuation and extension of compensation equivalent to minimum market value of land, is expected to facilitate developers to implement projects, like hydro, roads and transmission lines, on time. This will reduce chances of significant cost overrun, which inflates project cost.
Also, a provision in the policy that allows the government to take action against those who try to disrupt land acquisition process or create hurdles for project developers that have acquired land by following the due process is expected to help project developers in completing the projects on time.
Currently, many developers have to wait for an extremely long time to acquire land required to build various physical infrastructure projects.
For instance, the government still has not been able to acquire land in Khokana area of Lalitpur to build Kathmandu-Tarai fast track. Similar is the case with acquisition of land required to build various transmission towers and use of right-of-way for installation of transmission lines.
These problems crop up every now and then largely because of absence of clear policy guideline.
“We hope the policy — and the Act which will be framed based on this document — will address these issues, and developers will not face hurdles while building projects,” said a high-ranking official of the National Planning Commission, which framed the policy.
At present, project developers are acquiring land to develop various physical infrastructure based on Land Acquisition Act 1977. However, the Act does not properly address issues such as rehabilitation of people who have to be relocated from the area where projects are being built. As a result, locals launch protests to press their demands for better compensation, which delays project implementation.
The policy has tried to address these complex issues so that the country can achieve its development goals without causing erosion in living standard of the people who are displaced or affected by the projects.
In this regard, the policy has stressed on the need to first assess economic and social impact of the development project.
Based on this, projects will be categorised as high-, medium- and low-risk.
High-risk projects refer to those which displace 50 or more households in the mountainous region, 75 or more households in the hilly region and 100 or more households in the Tarai. Medium-risk projects, on the other hand, are those that force relocation of less than 50 households in the mountainous region, less than 75 households in the hilly region and less than 100 households in the Tarai. Likewise, low-risk projects refer to those which cause productive property to shrink by up to 10 per cent.
“Upon evaluation of these impacts, a strategy on land acquisition and compensation must be framed for low-risk projects. But in the case of high- and medium-risk projects, a detailed resettlement and rehabilitation plan must be designed,” says the policy, a copy of which has been obtained by The Himalayan Times.
“Also, families should be entitled to compensation if works like installation of transmission, telephone and underground drinking water pipe lines affect livelihood. And in case the projects affect yields of registered commercial crop, fruit or flower producers, compensation equivalent to five years of revenue must be given in cash.”
All expenses related to land acquisition, compensation and implementation of resettlement and rehabilitation plans should be considered as project cost, adds the policy. Also, interest should be paid on compensation amount depending on the days it took to release funds to those affected by the project. The interest calculation begins from the day a formal decision was taken to operate the project, says the policy.
The compensation amount for those affected by the project will be fixed by a five-member compensation committee formed under chief district officer. The committee can form a technical team to determine the compensation amount. This team should derive the compensation amount by working closely with members of families that are likely to be displaced.
“Once the compensation amount is fixed by the committee, it cannot be reviewed,” says the policy.
Those not satisfied with land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation processes can lodge complaints at a body formed at the project office and complaint hearing offices at district and regional levels. If verdict issued by the regional level complaint hearing office is also deemed unsatisfactory, the person can knock on the doors of appellate court, says the policy.
Major points
• Creation of scientific standard for land valuation
• Extension of compensation equivalent to minimum market value of land
• Provision for action against those who try to disrupt land acquisition process
• Categorisation of projects based on economic and social impact assessment
• Relocation and rehabilitation of people affected by the project
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