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Illegal construction still on in Sukhna catchment: Sarin to Punjab & Haryana high court

Senior advocate ML Sarin said that he and other lawyers, on court directions, have made a number of visits to Chandigarh’s Sukhna lake area and also submitted their reports in this regard
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By HT Correspondent, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON NOV 26, 2019 12:35 AM IST

Senior advocate ML Sarin on Monday told Punjab and Haryana high court that illegal construction in the catchment areas of Sukhna Lake, falling in Punjab, are going on unabated, even as the court has time and again ordered restraint. Sarin was addressing the bench of justice Rajiv Sharma and justice HS Sidhu, during a resumed hearing of this petition.

Sarin, who is an amicus curiae (impartial adviser to court) in a 2009 case initiated by high court on pollution and falling water level in the man- made lake, said that he and other lawyers made a number of visits on court directions, and had also submitted their reports in this regard. Punjab has failed to act against it, he told the court.

The Chandigarh administration pointed out to the court that earlier this month, the Supreme Court in a judgment, had put brakes on Rs 1,800-crore Tata Camelot residential project, holding that it violated environmental norms. Under the project, which was conceived in 2007 and marred by controversies ever since, Tata Housing Development Company Ltd (Tata HDCL) was to construct 2,100 apartments, including 95 for Punjab state legislators. Of these, as many as 1,734 flats were to be sold to the public. SC had wondered why the state permitted the setting up of high-rise buildings in an eco-sensitive zone.

The UT also informed the court that it has already initiated the process to declare the area falling under Chandigarh as wetland under Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017. The notification will put restrictions on construction and other activities in order to conserve the area.

However, the court questioned UT as to even when it was declared protected wetland in 1988, why it had not acted as per wetland rules so far. The ‘protected wetland’ status puts restrictions on construction and other activities so as to conserve the area. The Sukhna catchment, which spreads over Punjab, UT and Haryana, is of around 2.30 hectares. The lake is facing a major crisis and often dries up during summer. The initiatives of de-silting and pumping water from other sources have not yielded much result. The hearing will now resume on December 2 as some lawyers associated with the case were not present.

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