CPA is concerned that those who will be affected by land acquisitions due to the implementation of the WRMMP will have little or no redress. Given that many lands that are to be acquired are in areas where several low income communities reside, it is difficult to contemplate how members of such communities will be in a position to seek redress, as the remedies available require both financial and legal assistance.
Therefore, CPA urges that any act of land acquisition for the purposes of implementing the WRMMP – be it under the provisions of Clause 21(1) or Clause 21(4) – must be transparent, while ensuring full compliance with the safeguards recognized by legislation and jurisprudence of the apex courts. In this regard, the Megapolis Authority must follow the judgments in Waters Edge case; where the Supreme Court held that the purpose of acquiring land has as its primary object, public utility and benefit of the community as a whole, and Manel Fernando v. D. M. Jayaratne, Minister of Agriculture and Lands and Others, where the court held that it was mandatory that notice given prior to the acquisition of lands also be accompanied with the public purpose for which a parcel of land is to be acquired.55 Further, persons affected must be allowed access to reasonable remedies if they are affected by land acquisitions, and thus, it is urged that the one month time bar and limited jurisdiction of the courts be reconsidered.
It is also important to note that the State must also be prepared to compensate those who are affected by land acquisitions. In the past, many of the State’s land acquisitions have been marred with numerous accounts of compensation being valued at very low levels.
CPA urges the government to take this into consideration and ensure that all persons affected by acquisitions of land by the State be adequately compensated in adherence to the prevalent safeguards.
The provisions of Clause 21(9) of the Megapolis Bill, which states that persons living in underserved communities shall be treated in a fair and equitable manner and not be impoverished due to development processes is commendable, and it is noteworthy that Schedule E of the Bill introduces a comprehensive compensation scheme.
The scheme allows those affected to make representations on what they believe is an appropriate value of compensation to Land Acquisition and Resettlement Committees (LARC), which thereafter shall be finalized following a hearing before the LARC.56 The LARC will also take into consideration factors such as loss of livelihood, loss of business, loss of wages of employment, existence of vulnerable purposes, as well as replacement costs and ex-gratia payments for buildings and other improvements.
Although this compensation scheme does contemplate payment of compensation based on numerous factors, CPA is concerned that the Megapolis Bill does not contain adequate safeguards to ensure the participation of those affected by land acquisitions.
Therefore, CPA urges that the Megapolis Bill contain provisions that prevent arbitrary decision-making and enforce existing legal and policy safeguards regarding land ownership and compensation, including the policy principles enumerated in the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy.
Read the Full report here as a PDF:CPA – Megapolis-Memorandum