The National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered on Wednesday that the Nahar Industrial Enterprises distillery project at Salana Jeewan Singh Wal village near Amloh in Fategarh Sahib district be halted immediately, since the residents of the villagers around had raised serious environmental issues.
The villagers protesting against the Punjab government for several months for its allowing the distillery to come up have told the tribunal that the unit is being set up in an area that Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) had declared notified in 1997 to emphasise that overexploiting of groundwater had declined its level to a dangerous point.
A four-member bench of the NGT headed by justice Dr P Joythimani has said in its order that since it is clear that Amloh has been declared a notified area, its groundwater cannot be extracted for purposes other than drinking. The condition was being reiterated, said the bench.
Issuing notice to the union ministry of environment and forest, CGWA, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), and Nahar Industry Enterprises to respond by November 7, the bench ordered all the aforesaid respondents to maintain status quo in respect of construction of any building in the area.
Advocate AR Takkar, who represented the residents of various villages, said the Punjab government had overlooked all mandatory norms before sanctioning the distillery.
The panchayat of Salana Jeewan Singh Wala moved the tribunal on Tuesday on behalf of thousands of other residents from their village, besides Salana Dulla Singh Wala, Kahanpura, Majri Kisne Wali, Majra Manna Singh Wala, Shahpur, and Khumna.
In respective Gram Sabhas, these villagers have passed resolutions against the distillery project, and put in their petition that the sanctioning authorities be held responsible for large-scale depletion of groundwater level in the area that was notified as overexploited already.
The petitioners said Oswal had considerable influence in the corridors of power in the state because of his position and wealth.
The distillery is coming on 23 acres within a sugar mill that will run on molasses, its byproduct.
It will make 200 kiloliters of alcohol a day and co-generate electricity. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report should have been rejected by environment ministry, as it was prepared in haste and a negligent manner, and at every step, measures required to be complied with normally have been ignored, says the petition.