A ‘fair’ number of owners of land acquired by the government for road development are now being paid compensation with Treasury bills instead of cash on a directive by the President, Wasantha Karannagoda, Secretary to the Ministry of Highways and Road Development, said.
The compensation process of persons whose lands were taken over by the state for road development is now underway and a sizable amount from the total of Rs.8.5 billion in compensation which remained unpaid for land taken over by the state for road expansion has been paid in Treasury bills, he added. The Ministry of Highways and Road Development has taken speedy measures to settle the accumulated claims, for lands taken over by the government for road development which is vital for the country, Mr. Karannagoda, a former Navy Chief, told the Business Times.
He did not give reasons for not paying the usual cash compensation but Treasury officials said this option has been offered due to a shortage of funds to pay compensation.
Around 42,000 families who surrendered their land making way for infrastructure development for the benefit of the country have not been paid their entitled compensation, for several years. Some of them have not received compensation for around 25 years and now are receiving Treasury bills, informed sources said.
The government is acquiring land under Section 38 of the Road Development Act.
It stipulates compensation for land owners. The displaced persons have raised social and environmental concerns as well as complaints about delays of paying assessed compenstion. The additional compensation (25% of the compensation amount) that was due to severely affected families who own land and structures is being withheld by the Road Development Authority (RDA).
Rent stipend and other relocation allowances are similarly being withheld, and houses and lands are being grossly undervalued. The RDA has set up several levels of grievance handling mechanisms including mediation boards, to settle problems of affected people, RDA sources said.
Some weeks back, at the launch of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) guide for "Designing and Implementing Redress Mechanisms for Implementors of Transport Projects" in Colombo, Mr Karannagoda, said he has also requested the ADB to consider helping the government rectify the issue of compensation.
Under the ADB project agreement for road development which includes land acquisition, separate funds are allocated for the payment of compensation.
So far in 2009, Sri Lanka has spent approximately Rs. 90 billion on road development in 2009, up sharply from Rs. 9.7 billion in 2000. Estimates of spending on road development in 2010 is set at approximately Rs. 100 billion.