TBL web desk
Deciding on the appeal filed against the construction of industrial park in the Mattewara forest area, the National Green Tribunal of India (NGT) has directed the Punjab government that the protection of the flood area of the Sutlej River and the Mattewara forest should not be compromised.
The Punjab Government issued a notification in 2020 that an industrial park would be set up on the land adjoining the Mattewara forest. The land is bounded on one side by the Mattewara forest and the other by the Sutlej River. Soon after this decision, activists from different sections started opposing the industrial development in this eco-sensitive area.
A campaign by Student organization Sath
Considering the project as a threat to the ecology of the Mattewara forest and the Sutlej River, the student body “SATH” launched the “Save Mattewara, Save Punjab” campaign. Other well-wishers of Punjab united to halt this project.
Appeal with NGT against the project
In view of the environmental hazards of the project, an appeal was lodged by Kapil Dev with the NGT that the project was degrading the forest environment and the project was being constructed in the flood area of the Sutlej River.
The Floodplain of the Sutlej
The Sutlej makes an extensive floodplain along its 96 kilometers course in the north of the district. This floodplain covers an area of about 300 square kilometers, which accounts for about 16 percent of the total area of the district. It is locally known as the Bet. Most of this tract is between the Sutlej and its tributary, the Budha Nala, and runs parallel to that master stream for almost the whole of the length of the district. Of course, the Sutlej floodplain does have its extension even south of the Budha Nala.
The floodplain is a low-lying area, has swampy condition in parts and possesses somewhat undulating topography. It is the widest in its eastern half (about 11 kms) and gradually narrows down towards the west (about 5 kms). The breadth of the floodplain is primarily determined by the distance of the Budha Nala from the Sutlej and this distance is more in the east than in the west.
The applicant further filed an objection to the proposed amendment of the master plan, as per public notice Annerure-P-3 dated 20.11.2020. In the said objection dated 19.12.2020, the applicant inter alia stated:
- An industrial park is ill advised on a river flood plain. Encroachment on flood plain cuts off river from its eco system along the banks and it is unable to provide life-sustaining conditions to plant and animal habitats along the river margins and banks.
- Damage to floodplains harms the riverine ecosystem, lessens groundwater recharge capacity and poses threats of flash floods.
- Ludhiana is a critically polluted area as notified by CPCB. Industrial/Textile Park in the same district and will only add to the pollution of Ludhiana.”
Decision of NGT
During the hearing on the appeal, the NGT said that it was imperative to save the Mattewara forest and the flood area of the Sutlej River.
NGT in its decision said that “We have considered the matter and heard the applicant No.1 in person. There is no doubt about the need for protecting the flood plains of Sutlej River in Ludhiana as well as the forest areas, in accordance with provisions of the EP Act and the FC Act. This Tribunal has already issued directions for protection of flood plain zones which is necessary for protection of environment.”
Referring to its order number 673/2018 regarding the protection of flood plain areas, NGT has asked the Punjab government to ensure the safety of the flood area of Sutlej.
The order reads, “In OA 673/2018, dealing with the rejuvenation of 351 polluted river stretches in the country, the Tribunal directed constitution of “River Rejuvenation Committees” (RRCs) in all the States/UTs to prepare and execute action plans, which includes protection of flood plain zones. Such actions plans have been duly prepared. Sutlej River is one of such 351 polluted river stretches. Remedial action for rejuvenation of Sutlej has been separately considered and directions issued for compliance of orders in OA 673/2018.”
Referring to the action plan prepared by the RRC for the polluted river stretches, the order reads, “The RRC Punjab may also accordingly monitor the execution of action plans for Sutlej and Beas rivers in continuation of 5th report of the Monitoring Committee, referred to above, subject to overall oversight of the Chief Secretary. The Chief Secretary while reviewing the status of various issues may focus on timely completion of the ongoing works.”
NGT in its order added that the matter of protection of flood plains is part of the action plan prepared by RRC, the Chief Secretary, Punjab “in coordination with the River Rejuvenation Committee already constituted pursuant to order of this Tribunal dated 20.09.2018 in OA No. 673/2018, In re: News item published in “The Hindu” authored by Shri Jacob Koshy titled “More river stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB, to take such remedial action as may be necessary for protection of the flood plains. Protection of forests is covered by the statutory mandate of the FC Act and no non forest activity is allowed in forest area without statutory clearances, there is no reason to presume that the said mandate will be ignored. Let the concerned authorities look into this aspect and take further action as per law”.
Er. Kapil Dev, President of Council of Engineers said that the State of Punjab has selected a land in village Mattewara, Garhi Fazal etc. area for Modern Industrial Park, however such area is surrounded by Protected Forests from two sides and Deemed Forests as well as River Sutlej towards third i.e. rear side. Since most of the land which is to be developed as Industrial Park comes under FloodPlains of River Sutlej, we have submitted references to the District Survey Report prepared by the District Mining Officer of Ludhiana regarding definition of Flood Plains with the NGT. According to which the floodplain is a low-lying area, has swampy conditions in parts and possesses somewhat undulating topography. It is the widest in its eastern half (about 11 kms) and gradually narrows down towards the west (about 5 kms).
He said that Any Industrial area or similar activity would severely damage the ecology and aquatic life of River Sutlej and possibility of Flash Floods will increase by manifolds. Instead of any Industrial Park, the State Govt. Should work on Biodiversity and increase the Forest cover in the area.Follow us: