Four-fold hike in land cost for State's mega irrigation project

Land Acquisition Act ups budget for UKP III, which will irrigate 6.25L ha in N-K

Four-fold hike in land cost for State's mega irrigation project

The cost of acquiring land for the third phase of Upper Krishna Project (UKP), which aims to irrigate 6.25 lakh hectares of land over nine drought-prone districts of northern Karnataka, has gone up fourfold since land losers are to be compensated as per the new law.

The project will increase the height of Almatti dam from 519 metres to 524.27 metres. UKP III is the first project in Karnataka, for which compensation has to be paid as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Karnataka) Rules, 2015.

Land acquisition for all public projects, except the UKP, was stopped in Karnataka in the past two years following serious differences between the Union government and the Opposition over land acquisition rules. Finally, the Centre had to follow the old rules of the 2013 legislation, barring increasing the compensation for land acquisition.

The estimated administrative cost for UKP III was Rs 5,500 crore in 2011-12. But the 2013 law, which became effective from January 1, 2014, increased the cost fourfold – nearly Rs 20,000 crore, according to Shivayogi C Kalasad, Commissioner (Rehabilitation and Land Acquisition), UKP.

“Land acquisition for UKP III wasn’t affected by this law. But the challenge is how to get the additional funds. There are three options: budgetary support, external borrowings and float bonds by the Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited,” he added. The new rules mandate that land losers be compensated four times the market price in villages and twice in urban areas.

The total land notified for the third phase so far is 50,000 acres spread across mainly Bagalkot and Vijayapura districts. Of this, 10,000 acres have already been acquired and compensation paid for 3,000 acres. “For any land acquired after January 1, 2014, higher compensation will apply,” Kalasad said.

A total of 1.25 lakh acres of land is required for the project. Of this, 75,000 acres of land will be submerged in the backwaters itself. Twenty villages have to be relocated. The cost of an acre of irrigated land in villages is not less than Rs 10 lakh. The process of land acquisition will get over only by 2017.

The official further said it was difficult to say exactly how much compensation had to be paid because that depended on factors such as location of land and immovable assets. “In the last one year, Rs 250-300 crore has been spent on land acquisition,” he added.

According to Kalasad, no other project in India is as large as the UKP which is larger than even the Narmada project. “Probably in China there could be a mega project like the UKP. In the last one year, we have acquired ten times more land than what is acquired for public projects in the entire country. The challenge is not just to acquire land but to rehabilitate the land losers. Maintaining the humanitarian touch is the challenge,” he added. 

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