ISLAMABAD - The affectees of Dasu hydropower project of 4,300MW have dropped their early demand of land re- categorisation, however they have demanded 40 percent increase over the land price determined in 2015.

The affectees of Dasu dam are demanding an annual increase of 10 percent on the land price over the determination made for the land acquisition back in 2015, official sources told The Nation here Tuesday.

The issue was discussed here in the 14th Steering Committee Meeting of Dasu Dam Hydropower Project held here in the Ministry of Water Resources. The meeting was attended by the senior officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, WAPDA and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources among others.

Federal Minister for Water Resources, Muhammad Faisal Vawda chaired the meeting where he was briefed by Senior Member Board of Revenue KP (SMBR) and Commissioner Hazara Division about the updates in the land acquisition process for the project.

The committee was informed that after painstaking efforts of the District Administration of Kohistan Districts, the potential affectees of the Dasu Hydropower dam project area have agreed to accept the compensation of built up properties and taking escalation on the negotiated land rates without pressing on change of land categories in larger national interest so that the acquisition process can be put on fast track.

The minister was informed that re-categorization of land from rural to semi-urban and semi-urban to urban was a long standing demand of the project affectess but now they have agreed to drop this demand. This can be termed as a significant move forward towards land acquisition for the Dasu Hydropower project.

However, the locals of the area have demanded that the land rates have appreciated since the last negotiations done in 2015. The affectees are demanding an increase of 10 percent annually in the land rates which will be around 40 percent of the prices determined four years ago, said the source. The committee was of the view that the decision cannot be made randomly and the payment should be made under a clear cut formula, said the source.

The water resource minister directed the project team to work out a formula with rational basis to calculate the rate of appreciation in the land rates which will cause an increase in the total cost of land and will require ECNEC approval.

Although the earlier assessment had been worked out with the consultation with the residents of the areas, however, now they are not willing to sell their lands even with the revised rates. The proposed rate revision would have increased the total cost of the project by 3 percent or Rs 18 billion.

Dasu Hydropower project is located on river Indus, around 240km upstream from Tarbela dam, in the Kohistan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The project is being funded by the World Bank and the funds were approved in 2014.  It is pertinent to mention here that for the World Bank, for the third time, has extended deadline for one year for utilization of the funds.