Mattewara Industrial Park: Punjab chief secy told to take steps to protect Sutlej floodplains
A five-judge bench of the National Green Tribunal has ordered the Punjab chief secretary to take remedial actions for protection of the floodplains of Sutlej river in Ludhiana, in coordination with the River Rejuvenation Committee.
Four social activists from the city- Kapil Arora, Kuldeep Khaira, Mohit Jain and Gagnish Singh Khurana, had moved NGT against the proposed amendment to the master plan of Ludhiana for developing a modern industrial park in the forest area and floodplains of Sutlej river in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The state government had proposed to establish an industrial park over around 960 acres of government and panchayat land at villages including Haidar Nagar, Sekhowal, Salempur, Sailkiana and Machian Kalan. The Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA) has already acquired the land.
The activists rued that the proposed industrial park site is surrounded by protected forests from two sides and deemed forests as well as Satluj river towards the third i.e. rear side. Apart from damaging the forest and disturbing the wildlife, an industrial park will also damage the river.
“Since most of the land which is to be developed as an industrial park comes under floodplains of Sutluj, we have submitted references of the district survey report prepared by the Ludhiana district mining officer with the NGT. The tribunal further stated that River Rejuvenation Committees has already been formed in the states and Sutlej is among the 351 polluted rivers for which an action plans have been made,” said Arora.
What is a flood plain?
A floodplain is an area of land adjacent to a river which stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge.
Khaira stated that the Punjab government had marked active flood plains as no manufacturing zones within an area of one kilometre from Dhusi Bandh along the entire stretch of Satluj passing through Ludhiana. He added that in the last two decades, there have been frequent incidents of major breaches in embankments (Dhusi Bandh) at Mattewara village, Garhi Fazal and its surrounding areas.
Khaira added that the gazette notification for amendment has not come till date, but the land has already been transferred in the name of GLADA. Accordingly, GLADA has fixed the rates of land per acre and invited expression of interests from industrialists.
Kapil stated that the NGT had observed that protection of forests is covered by the statutory mandate of the Forest (conservation) Act, 1980 and no non-forest activity is allowed in forest areas without statutory clearances. There is no reason to presume that the said mandate will be ignored.