Oil exploration firm accused of breaching agreement

HARIPUR: Landowners from the remote Sarahdna villagein Khanpur tehsil have criticised a gas exploration company over what they called its failure to fulfil conditions incorporated in the memorandum of understanding(MoU) at the time of land acquisition.

They warned that they would stage protests if their demands were not met in two weeks.

Located on the eastern bank of Khanpur reservoir at a distance of around 60km from the district headquarters, the Sarahdna village was selected for oil and gas exploration before the MOL Pakistan Oil and Gas Co BV began drilling in its hilly range in 2014.

According to local landowner Haji Abdul Hameed, the MOL Company had acquired on lease 100 kanals of agricultural land, where they used to grow two crops every year.

Under the agreement, a copy of which is available with Dawn, the company agreed to pay every landowner Rs7,500 per kanal annually until the completion of drilling.

If the project is executed successfully, the company will sign a new MoU with landowners.

However, in case of failure, the land will be returned to owners in the arable condition.

Mr Hameed claimed that the company paid landowners the lease amount for 2014 and 2015 and abruptly stopped not only drilling in 2016 but also the payment of lease amount to them.

He also said the company kept landowners in the dark about the status of the project.

Gohar Zamir, another landowner, said the company was neither vacating the fenced land nor paying owners the rent.

“The company is bound to clear our five years dues and hand over the land to us bringing it to the same arable condition when it was acquired on lease,” he said.

The landowner said the MOL Company used heavy machinery to remove hillocks and boulders, so their land could no longer be called agricultural and needed immediate refilling and leveling for cultivation.

Zarin Gul, another landowner, said he along with others would stage protests if their demand was not met within two weeks.

A source in the deputy commissioner’s office told Dawn that the company was ready to pay landowners for the land refilling but the latter rejected the offered amount and demanded the immediate handover of land in arable condition along with the payment of dues.

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