26 September 2016, Lalitpur
Newars of Khokana area today filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission demanding redress for violations of their property, land and cultural rights in course of land acquisition process for Kathmandu-Tarai/Madhes Fast Track Highway.
Land acquisition notice for the Fast Track Highway, a national pride project, was published in March. Khokana representatives, including local political leaders, had immediately submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Home Affairs citing disagreements over absence of consultation among affected communities about the project design as well as impacts. There has not been any response to their complaint.
As per the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which was received informally, the consultants note that “there was significant objection” to taking productive agricultural land for the Fast Track Highway in Khokana. “The alignment on the west bank of the Bagmati River has significant advantages that avoid valuable agricultural land in Khokana”, the report adds.
“One of our demands is hence that the government change the alignment of the Fast Track as per the EIA report,” said Rabindra Maharjan of Khokhana Janasarokar Samuha. “We have urged the NHRC to study and convey our demands to the concerned authorities to protect our human rights.”
Besides the Fast Track Highway, Kathmandu Outer Ring Road, Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project and Thankot-Bhaktapur Transmission Line Project are other infrastructure projects, which concern communities in Khokana area. “These projects together will displace the Newar community of the area entirely, whose have been affected due to land acquisitions for various public purposes at different times in the past,” reads the complaint to the NHRC.
The Fast Track Highway and other projects violate the property and other rights of those whose lands will be acquired as guaranteed in Nepal’s existing laws, including Land Acquisition Act. Further, the projects being undertaken without consultation with and consent of the Newar people of Khokana also contravene their rights as indigenous people in line with ILO Convention 169 and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which apply to Nepal. The projects also entail wide range of violations of economic, social and cultural rights of the Newar people in Khokana area, which holds historical and cultural significance.
“Even large area of Guthi lands of various temples will be acquired, including that of Rato Machhindranath – considered as the god of rain by Newars of Patan city,” said Maharjan with anger.
The complaint requests the NHRC to undertake necessary investigation and monitoring in Khokana area on human rights violations of the affected people and recommend the government authorities responsible for the projects to address the demands of the people. Their demands include, among others, preparing integrated project for all the infrastructure projects in Khokana area and consulting and obtaining consent of the affected Newar people to implement such project so as to minimize land acquisition and other socio-cultural impacts.
For more information, contact:
Rabindra Maharjan, Khokana Janasarokar Samuha, +977-9851000225
Adv. Santosh Rana Magar, Community Empowerment and Social Justice (CEmSoJ) Foundation,firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to read the draft of the complaints submitted to the NHRC and Home Ministry in Nepali.