SWAT: Construction work on the 84 Mega Watt Maltiltan Power Project in Swat has been suspended for the past four days as locals protest over unfulfilled compensation promises.
Local government representatives have warned that angry locals may force the contractors to pack up and leave if the provincial government keeps ignoring the issue.
“People want the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to pay the promised compensation sum and measure the area affected by the project located on the Swat River in the scenic Kalam Valley,” said Engineer Syed Khan, the District Nazim of Gorkin Matiltan region in Kalam.
“People have demanded that the K-P government keep its word or the contractors working on the project will have to leave the area,” he told The Express Tribune.
The district nazim was leading a protest in the valley. Protesters held up placards and banners inscribed with demands for proper compensation, alternate land and measurement of lands affected by the power project. They also chanted slogans against the provincial power minister Atif Khan.
Syed added that before launching the project, the Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (PEDO) had promised that locals will be compensated according to the prevailing value of land. However, the construction company has yet to conduct a land survey.
“The K-P government had assured us in a meeting that the Swat River will not be diverted, but now they have diverted the flow [of the river] which will cause massive losses to the hotel and tourism industry of the area,” he complained.
Locals, he said, would lose employment opportunities apart from their ancestral land if the flow of the river is diverted. Tourists come here to enjoy along the river bank, he said adding, “you are taking the bank [and livelihoods of locals] away.”
“We will allow the company to resume their work when a representative of the provincial government addresses our worries and releases funds for the losses suffered by locals,” the district nazim asserted.
However, he alleged that the PTI-led provincial government was preoccupied.
“Despite four days of protest and suspension of work on the power project, no official of the provincial government or even the district administration has contacted us,” he cried.
Activist Jameel Khan said that diverting the flow of the Swat River for the run-of-the-river power project would destroy the local economy.
“Our livelihood depends on tourists who come scenic visit points along the Swat River. But now people will move to other spots after the seven-kilometre-long diversion of the river for the power project [is built],” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2017.
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