Mirani Dam Affectees Arrive in Lahore to Protest Displacement

mirani dam protest in LahorePress Release

LAHORE: A delegation of nineteen people from Turbat, Balochistan, arrived in Lahore to start a hunger-strike camp today outside Wapda’s office at Charing Cross. These are local representatives of the tens of thousands of people affected by the 2007 Mirani Dam constructed by former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

The police in Lahore has already threatened them, and asked them to leave. Holding Wapda and the Planning Commission responsible for their plight, the Baloch protestors are demanding the immediate release of promised 4305.89 million rupees in lieu of damages to houses from 264 feet to 271.4 feet Average Mean Sea Level (AMSL), and date trees and karezat from 245 feet to 271.4 feet AMSL.

When the Mirani Dam was built in 2007 with a cost of 5.8 billion rupees, the “experts” had determined that water levels would not reach beyond 245 feet AMSL. But on June 26-27, 2007 the backflow from the Dam  reached 271.4 feet AMSL and caused widespread destruction in Nodez, Nasirabad and other areas of Kech, Balochistan.

The government initially ignored the issue and then the government agreed to pay compensation for 264 feet  AMSL. But after several protests, rallies, and even a hunger strike camp in Lahore last April, Wapda, PC, and the  government finally agreed in December 2012 to pay compensation for up to 271.4 feet AMSL. However, the compensation for 264 feet haven’t been fully paid and there are no signs of payments for house  damage above 271.4 level, or compensation for date trees, tube wells, and karezat. This has prompted the affectees to once again travel from Turbat to Lahore, covering almost 2,000km by bus. The protestors intend to stay in the camp for as long as it takes.

The Awami Workers Party (Lahore) organized a press conference at Lahore Press club in support of the affectees.  Farooq Tariq, General Secretary AWP, gave full support to the demands. “Everyone makes big claims about  Balochistan, the establishment and politicians failing to deliver at all counts, whether it is to protect the people  from violence or the negative impact of mega development projects.”

General Secretary of AWP Lahore, Hashim bin Rashid said, “This was a 5.8 billion rupee project, plenty of  money commission for corporations, bureaucrats, and politicians. Nothing for the people.”

Wahid Baksh and Ahmed Baloch were invited from the camp to speak at the press conference. They highlighted their plight of six long years. “We have been living in makeshift tents and are deprived of their sources of  livelihood. Wapda, the Planning Commission, government and politicians all make false promises. We are here to demand justice.” They also thanked AWP for supporting their cause and raising their voice in Punjab Awami Workers Party will hold a People’s Tribunal this Saturday, February 23, 2013, where the Turbat  delegation will be invited to give their testimonies and witness statements. A panel of renowned activists, lawyers, and journalists will deliver people’s judgment at this occasion.

Published in The Baloch Hal on February 18, 2013