PESHAWAR: The people whose agricultural land was acquired for the construction of the Swat Motorway on Friday asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to pay them as per the market value.
“The owners of the land in Bakhshali have not received a single penny despite the passage of one year,” said a landowner, Fayyaz Ali.
He added the provincial government should have paid the money to the people on priority basis as they had no means of earing livelihood after losing their land to the project.
Another landowner, Salman Khan belonging to Malakand Agency, said his standing wheat crop was cut off and the land was acquired for the project.
“I have not been paid a single penny for my land,” he maintained, urging the government to initiate the process to provide compensation to the landowners.
Other affectees of the project also expressed similar apprehensions and criticised the government for its lukewarm response to their repeated pleas.
Other landowners said that they even didn’t know about the mode of payment. “We are worried that the government may give us peanuts for the precious land that we have been tilling since generations,” another landowner complained.
The Swat Motorway is considered as a signature project of the PTI-led government. The construction work on the four-lane (extendable to six lane) was launched on August 25, 2016 at an estimated cost of Rs40 billion.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Highways Authority (KPHA) Project Director Barkatullah said that Rs5.8 billion of Rs40 billion project had been allocated for land acquisition.
He said the Swabi-Mardan portion of the road would be completed by December next. He further said that August 2018 was the completion date for the project.
“We are confident that the project would be inaugurated by March next,” he said.
Though work on the project is taking place with an impressive speed, the landowners have yet to be compensated for the loss they suffered.
When asked, Assistant Engineer Babar Majeed said the 81 kilometre long road starting from Karnal Sher Khan Interchange on the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway in Swabi would pass through 18 kilometres in Swabi, two in Nowshera, 40 in Mardan and 21 kilometres in Malakand Agency.
He added the road would help reduce the three-hour long journey to Malakand to just 45 minutes.
The engineer informed that the KPHA had acquired a total of 8,350 kanals of land for the project so far. He added the land being acquired for construction of the six interchanges and up-gradation of Karnal Sher Khan Interchange was not included in it.
“About 2000 kanals of land has been acquired in Swabi, 350 kanal in Nowshera and 6,000 kanal in Mardan for the project,” he elaborated.
The motorway will have six interchanges Chakdarra, Palai in Malakand, Katlang, Bakhshali in Mardan and Ismaila, Dhobian in Swabi and will be linked to the Karnal Sher Khan Interchange on M-1.
It will also have a 1300 metres long tunnel at Zulam Kot and Palai in Malakand.
The engineer said that land acquisition process in Malakand Agency was not complete yet.
He hoped the process in Malakand would complete in the next two weeks.
He said the KPHA had released Rs2.3 billion to pay the houses owners, other structures, landowners and sister departments.
Sharing details of the payment to the district administrations, he said that the KPHA released Rs620 million to Swabi, Rs51 million to Nowshera and Rs1.5 billion to Mardan administration for onward distribution among the affectees of the project.
He said that they also paid Rs10 million to Pakistan Telecommunication Limited, Rs54 million to Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) and Rs1.2 million to Public Health and Irrigation departments.
“We have released Rs2.18 billion on account of land acquisition, Rs101 million to owners of houses and farmers whose crops were destroyed,” he added
However, most of the affected residents in Bakhshali, Katlang, Mata, Shamozai, Bobuzai, Narsak, Cham Dheri, Mula Koto in Mardan, Dhobian and Ismaila in Swabi, Palai, Bazdarra and Alladhand in Malakand Agency said they had not received payment from the government.
Repeated attempts were made to seek comments from Deputy Commissioner of Mardan Imran Hamid, but he didn’t bother to provide the required information.
Deputy Commissioner Malakand Syed Zafar Ali Shah said that they had completed the process of land acquisition in Malakand.
However, he didn’t tell to this scribe as to how much land was being acquired for the project and instead said that an estimated Rs1.46 to Rs2 billion would be sought from the KPHA to make payments to the affectees in Malakand Agency.
On being contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Swabi Motasim Billah said that they had just received the required funds and the money would soon be distributed among the affectees.
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