Dharan, Aug. 29: Local landowners in Dharan Sub Metropolitan City have started demanding the return of their land they had sold for a proposed airport, as the construction of the airport did not begin even in 20 years.
Yeti Airlines Pvt. Ltd. had purchased the land at a cheaper rate in March/April 2004, in the presence of former Mayors – Kumar Bahadur Karki and Manoj Kumar Menyangbo – and former Deputy Mayor Mina Kumar Subba. The airline had bought seven bighas and 18 kathhas of land then.
According to the locals, the airline had acquired the land in the presence of the then municipality representatives by dividing it into two categories – ‘A’ and ‘B’.
At a time when land prices ranged from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 60,000 per kattha, the airline had purchased the ‘A’ category land at Rs. 30,000 per kattha and the ‘B’ category at Rs. 28,000 per kattha.
The locals met Dharan Sub-Metropolitan Mayor Harka Raj Rai and apprised him of their demand.
During the discussion, former Mayor Kumar Bahadur Karki said that for the development of Dharan, the municipality had requested cooperation from the locals. A written agreement was also signed between the then representatives of the local government, previous landowners and the representatives of Yeti Airlines.
The agreement inked on March 31, 2004, states that after the construction of the airport, employment should be given to landowners. “If the airport is not built on the land, a pilot training airport will be constructed, and if neither of these is built, the land should be returned to the landowners at the price they have sold,” read the agreement.
On the basis of the written agreement, former landowners have demanded that their land should be given back. Additionally, they have expressed concern that some middlemen are attempting to sell the land by dividing into plots.
Indra Katuwal, a former local landowner, said, “We sold the land for the construction of the airport. We are still willing to support the construction if it is to proceed. However, if the private company does not have the right to build the airport, we demand the return of our land as per the agreement.”
Pushpa Rai, the daughter of former landowner Desh Kumar Rai, said that despite owning only two katthas of land, they sold it for the development of Dharan. But, if middlemen were trying to sell the land through plotting, we want to get back our land.
According to former Mayor Manoj Kumar Menyangbo, the locals had agreed to sell their land at a lower price in the presence of the municipality. When they learned that the land was being sold without informing the landowners, they took steps to halt the land-selling process and return the land to its previous owners.
Former landowner Dambar Shrestha said, “If there remains a possibility of building an airport, we don’t want our land back, but if the airport is not built, we demand the return of the land as per the agreement.” The local residents had sold about seven bighas of land to Yeti Airlines. Additionally, the municipality had also given an extra seven bighas of land for the airport’s purpose.
Initially, there was a plan to construct an airport for 18-seater Twin Otter aircraft. However, the work was halted in the absence of laws permitting private companies to build an airport in Nepal. The Civil Aviation Authority had also conducted a feasibility study for Dharan’s airport, involving significant expenditure. Meanwhile, Mayor Rai said that the local government would investigate the issue concerning the airport land. He said that if the airport was not built, he would take the initiative to return the land to its original owners. The Rising Nepal