Diamer-Bhasha dam affectees still await compensation

  • Officials continue to earn profits from the amount illegally stashed in private banks 

ISLAMABAD:  While Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has set up a separate fund for the construction of much-delayed Diamer Bhasha dam, the already released compensation amount of over Rs12 billion has not been given to the affectees by local administration for years for what sources claim are various disputes related to the acquired land.

On the other hand, locals accuse the district administration of Diamer, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) of deliberately avoiding resolution of the disputes to receive maximum interests on the huge amount, which has illegally been stashed at private banks.

“Since the officials of administration are enjoying the interests from commercial banks, they have little interest in resolving disputes to pave the way for payment of the compensation amount to affectees. We have requested chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the issue,” said Habib, an affectee of the dam.

An official of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), requesting anonymity, told Pakistan Today that the administration, as per law, should have parked the compensation amount at National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) instead of keeping the same in private banks. Keeping billions of rupees in private commercial banks was illegal, he said.

According to sources, the district administration of Diamer, which is responsible for disbursement of the compensation amount, has been depositing the fund in current accounts of private banks instead of a profitable account at the NBP. The private banks were allegedly paying huge interests to influential people in the administration and government of GB.

Sources at WAPDA said that Rs58.27 billion out of the Rs64.88 billion allocated for land acquisition and compensation for assets has so far been released to the district administration.

The huge amount being distributed among Dam’s affectees since 2012 have been deposited in private banks despite the fact that the government must pay a mark-up on the billions of rupees loaned from various sources for land acquisition of the mega project.

According to sources, the project director of Diamar Bhasha Dam had written multiple letters to the administration and federal government informing them of the malpractices on the part of the administration but all received no response.

The project director had asked the local administration to keep the huge amount deposited in a profitable account of NBP until their disbursement to affectees to pay the interests to government for repaying the mark-up set by lenders.

“WAPDA usually submits the interests of fund if disbursement/use of the amount is delayed for various reasons,” he said.

There were around Rs12 billion at the local administration for various reasons including court stays or dispute among affected people of the dam.

Sources at the Water and Power Division said that the ministry had directed the GB government to end the malpractices the day the ministry had come to know about the issue.

Deputy commissioner of Diamer did not respond despite repeated attempts to obtain his version on the matter.

The administration has been keeping the funds in private banks even though people frequently hold demonstrations in Diamar in protest against non-payment of compensation for their land being affected by the project.

The affectees of the dam have recently requested CJP Nisar to ensure the issuance of compensation for their land which had been acquired for construction of the dam.

The Supreme Court had issued directives on July 4 for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams to start immediately, and appealed to the general public, including Pakistanis residing abroad, to donate for the cause.