Mansehra: Residents have demanding market-rate payments for land that will be acquired for the 300megawatt Balakot hydropower project. If the demand was not met, the landowners threatened to march to the streets to assert their rights.

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“The assistant commissioner declared the hiring of locals for low-grade and labour positions in the Balakot energy project, however the initial batch of employees hired for the project is largely made up of non-locals.” Such behaviour is intolerable to us,” Aqeel Ahmad Yusufzai, president of the dam-affected people’s group, told reporters on Wednesday.

Accompanied by a group of landowners, he said the district administration had rushed to complete the land acquisition plan in order for the chief minister to inaugurate the project as soon as possible.

“The National Economic Council’s Executive Committee sanctioned $750 million for this project on the Kunhar River in Balakot teshil,” he stated.

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Another committee member, Arshad Hussain, stated that the acquisition of approximately 8,000 kanals of land was nearing completion, but that the people were uninformed of the amount offered for their land, houses, trees, and other property to be bought for the project.

Mr. Hussain said the assistant commissioner of Balakot had announced that the locals would be appointed to the non-technical and labour posts in accordance with the country’s laws, but no action was taken on that announcement.

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