High court stays demolition in Sukhna catchment area
The order was passed on the plea of Kansal Enclave Residents Welfare Association, which had sought review of the March 2 order of a division bench
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday stayed demolition and construction activity in the Sukhna catchment area besides the recovery of ₹100 crore fine each imposed on governments of Punjab and Haryana.
The order was passed by high court bench of justice Jaswant Singh and justice HS Sidhu on the plea of Kansal Enclave Residents Welfare Association, Mohali, which had sought review of the March 2 order of a division bench.
At that time, the HC had fined both states ₹100 crore each for causing damage to the catchment area and ordered demolition of all structures in catchment area as demarcated by the Survey of India in 2004 besides directing the authorities that owners whose building plans were approved be relocated and compensated with ₹25 lakh each.
The March order had come in a 2009 suo motu petition initiated in view of depleting water level in the lake. The order could have resulted in widespread demolitions in Nayagaon and Kansal areas, where even some upscale residential pockets have come up.
“The detailed order is awaited. But the court said that demolition as ordered in March 2020 is stayed. No new kind of construction would come up. Even for renovation, residents will have to take court’s permission. The fine imposed on Punjab and Haryana has been stayed,” senior standing counsel, UT, Pankaj Jain said after the hearing.
What the residents’ body contended
The residents’ body had told court that the March order was passed without making them party in the case. There was no consensus ever drawn regarding veracity of the 2004 map according to which court had taken decision on the catchment area, it was contended.
The map was questioned as well as objected to not only regarding its technical aspects in terms of accuracy but also disputed in respect of its adoption. Objections to the map were neither considered throughout the pendency of matter nor in the final order of March, the petitioner had told court.
The court was also told that the catchment area is directly coming in conflict with the Master Plan of 2021 notified by Punjab for Nayagaon area, which has statutory force. However, court in March declared two master plans of Punjab and Haryana as illegal, which regulated construction in the catchment area.
In March, the court had also declared Sukhna a living entity. Fine was imposed as court found that “state connived with the defaulters” in allowing construction. The chief secretaries of both states and adviser, Chandigarh, were directed to constitute high-power committees to fix the responsibilities of officers who permitted large-scale unauthorised construction.The court had also directed the ministry of environment and forest to notify at least 1 km area from the boundary of Sukhna wildlife sanctuary as eco-sensitive zone.
The lake was created by Le Corbusier in 1958. By 1988, 66% of the original water holding capacity of the lake was lost due to silting. Following this, check dams were constructed in the catchment area. But the water-level has once again started going down. The man-made lake now has a capacity of around 500 hectare metres against the original capacity of over 1,074 hectare metres. The lake’s depth is 12 to 13 feet. On the north side, the lake is surrounded by 26 square kilometre area of wildlife sanctuary.