Punished for living near Mangla dam
We learn nothing from history. Our incompetence makes sure of it, and the common man bears the burden.
The issue of affectees of the ‘Raising of Mangla Dam Project’ is another such case of incompetency and mismanagement, where state institutions have failed to deliver promised and much-touted respite to the people, not because of its low capacity but due to its lack of foresight and poor institutional coordination.
Affectees of the ‘Raising of Mangla Dam Project’ have once again been staging protests against the incomplete and delayed process of compensation. Grievances run deeper than that. A high ranking official in the Mirpur administration said:
“They have built this dam literally on the graves of our ancestors and they are even reluctant to provide enough water to the consumers in Mirpur.”
Benefits of the project
The cost of ‘Raising of Mangla Dam Project’ was projected to be Rs62.5 billion. The dam, which was constructed in 1967, had a gross storage capacity of 5.88 million acre feet but, with the passage of the time, the reservoir lost its capacity, due to accumulation of sediment deposits, by 20 per cent. There was provision for a 40 feet raising in the original design of of Mangla Dam in order to meet increased demand in the future.
After feasibility studies and evaluating other options such as desiltation and construction of dykes, it was decided that the raising of the dam was the most suitable proposition, technically as well as economically. A final decision in favor of a 30 feet raising was taken. The project benefits included an increase in the storage capacity by 2.9 million acre feet and an expected increase of 14 per cent in energy yields from the dam.
Why the project hurts the people
Almost 8,023 households were calculated to be affected while 15,783 acres of land was expected to be submerged underwater. The government advocated a ‘liberal and highly attractive compensation package’ but, it has failed to satisfy the affectees so far.
This is the second time in near history that the people of Mangla have been asked to move. The resentment in the affectees runs high and the memories of the first displacement still run fresh.
In the first displacement, 81,000 people were relocated, 32,900 houses were replaced, and 35,600 hectares (88,000 acres) of land was acquired. Six towns and 255 villages were affected. The displaced families were resettled in Punjab and Sindh provinces and also on the periphery of the reservoir.
Many affectees were ignored in the first compensation process. As a result, the issue of displacement has become a very emotional subject for many.
‘New Mirpur City Project’ was a compensation package made for the displaced population of ‘Raising of Mangla Dam Project.’ This new package comprised of the development of a new city and four towns in the purlieus of their existing abode.
The contractor responsible for the ‘Raising of Mangla Dam Project’ has completed the raising but the joint is yet to be tested. The contractor is pushing the government to check the joint in June as it would be the only time in this year when more water can be stored than the original Mangla levels.
On the other hand, progress in the ‘New Mirpur City Project’ has taken place at a snail’s pace and there is no possible way that the affectees could move to the new city before June. As opposed to the tall claims of the government and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), the affectees would have to wait much longer in order to be compensated.
Shakil Durrani, chairman Wapda, when he visited the site in February, announced that the affectees will be compensated by the end of the month.
We are in May.
The affectees are still protesting.
And, the affairs of the state are still running.
It’s business as usual.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 13, 2011
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated ‘A high ranking official in the Mirpur administration said:’ as ‘A high ranking official in the Mirpur said.administration.’
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