The Meghalaya High Court has asked the State government to pay compensation to eight villagers of Nongkrem whose lands have been submerged due to the construction of a dam for Wahtyngngai Combined Water Supply Scheme near Nongkynrih village in East Khasi Hills.
During hearing of their writ petitions today, the division bench of the High Court said that the petitioners other than Sumarmon Nongbri have not donated any land for the purpose of the construction of the dam.
The court also cited the survey report which found that at least 13 plots not belonging to Nongbri remain submerged.
“That would imply that the relevant plot-owners have lost use of the land covered by the submerged area. Even Sumarmon Nongbri may be entitled to compensation for the area of land belonging to her which has now been submerged other than the area indicated in the map appended to the agreement of May 5, 2007,” the High Court said.
“Prima facie, the petitioners or a substantial number of them appear to be justified in their claim and the State appears to be liable to compensate the petitioners for their plots of land having been lost to them as a result of the construction of the dam and such plots going under water,” the court added.
Since the State government sought a fortnight’s time to submit its report, the High Court gave three weeks for the government to indicate the mode and manner of compensation that the petitioners would be entitled to and the time-frame within which the exercise would be completed. The next hearing on the case will be held on September 14.
The petitioners are owners of the lands situated in Nongkrem and Laitlyngkot (Nongkynrih) and their source of livelihood is purely derived from cultivation on the lands.
In 2011 the Public Health Engineering Department had decided to launch the Wahtyngngai Combined Water Supply Scheme by construction of a dam for supplying water to 30 villages under Raid Nongkynrih and under Laitlyngkot Sirdarship.
The PHE Department took land measuring about 30.29 acres of land for constructing the dam downstream of Umiew river to implement the water project.
The landowners stated that though some steps had been taken by the PHE Department for calculating the estimate of the probable cost of land compensation, the same did not culminate into any acquisition proceedings as per laid down procedure, which has deprived them of their property, without the due process of law being followed, or they being paid adequate and fair compensation under the Land Acquisition Act.
The Wahtyngngai Combined Water Supply Scheme was accorded sanction under the National Rural Development Water Project Scheme (NRDWP) in March 2007 for an amount of Rs 10,90,08,500. Construction of the dam was undertaken by the PHE Department in the year 2006-07.
The scheme envisages pumping of water from Umiew River at Dkong to the Main Reservoir located at Lumthangding, the highest point among the villages, whereby water shall then be distributed to different villages in the scheme.
One of the major components in the scheme involves construction of RCC Dam across Umiew River at Dkong near Nongkynrih village for creating necessary head for the water to flow to Slow Sand Filtration Plant located downstream of the dam.
Construction of the dam across Umiew River, at Dkong under the jurisdiction of Raid Nongkynrih, was taken up following the permission accorded by the Nongkynrih Village Durbar.