Taking a serious note of the indifferent attitude of the Punjab government to its earlier orders, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, has issued a fresh notice to the state chief secretary, directing him to appear before it in person on March 5 to explain the government's position on a complaint filed by Hoshiarpur-based NGO Safal Bharat Guru Parampara against the government on the issue of depleting water resources.
The respondent had been directed to appear before the tribunal on February 19, but it failed to send a responsible officer before the tribunal bench. "We direct the chief secretary of the state of Punjab to appear in person on the next date of hearing, failing which coercive steps will be taken", says the orders issued by a bench comprising P Jyothimani, MS Nambiar, GK Pandey, AR Yousuf and Ranjan Chatterjee.
The NGO, through its chairman P K Rana, had brought to the notice of the NGT the problem of overexploitation of ground water in Punjab which was rendering the land infertile. Citing the study of the Central Ground Water Board, which had listed 100 of the 138 blocks in Punjab as 'dark zones', the petitioner had sought directions to the state government to stop supply of free power, which was leading to misuse of water and plantation of eucalyptus trees.
The petitioner had also moved a miscellaneous application, alleging that despite tribunal orders, the government had issued demand letters for 17,000 tubewell connections, which was bound to worsen the water situation. In view of the urgency of the matter, the tribunal, vide its order dated February 19, also made the Union Agriculture Ministry a respondent in the case and issued a notice for appearance on the next date of hearing. Besides the Punjab government, Central Ground Water Board has also been made a party to the issue.