SUKHNA CATCHMENT AREA: Map demarcations were verified on ground by UT
Groundtruthing of the Sukhna catchment area map prepared by the Survey of India was conducted in 2019, nearly 15 years after the Punjab and Haryana high court accepted it as conclusive. However, findings of the exercise carried out in 2019 are yet to be made public.
Groundtruthing is the process of check the accuracy of remotely sensed data by means of in-situ (on the ground) observations, and helps in actual demarcation.
The entire catchment area of Sukhna Lake had been demarcated in the map prepared by the SoI in 1995, which was further reauthenticated in 2004.
The HC took on record the SoI map on September 24, 2004, and the UT, thereafter, officially adopted it as the map of the Sukhna catchment area.
The court in May 2012 specifically directed the UT administration to give wide publicity to the catchment area as depicted in the map. The administration in July 2012 issued public notices informing people about construction ban in the Sukhna catchment. It also shared the SoI map in these notices, clearly showing the restricted area.
UT chief conservator of forests Debendra Dalai said: “We conducted the groundtruthing exercise last year. We verified the position on the ground and also checked for any encroachments.”
On when the findings will be made public, he said: “It will be done holistically, after Punjab and Haryana share inputs of their jurisdiction.”
Significantly, the administration recently sought a better resolution map from the SoI. The SoI map is on the 1:25,000 scale, while the administration wants 1:5,000 scale. However, a senior SoI official, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We were never asked by any authority to make a new catchment area map with a better resolution. The resolution asked for by the administration is not available with us.”
Locals complain that they have never been informed where exactly the catchment area is located in villages. “We are clueless about the catchment area falling in the area. The SoI map shared by the administration is not very clear when it comes to spotting the exact area,” said Dalip Kumar, a resident of Kaimbwala village.
Kaimbwala in Chandigarh is among areas that face demolitions following the Punjab and Haryana high court’s Monday order. The other affected areas are Nayagaon and Kansal in Mohali, and portions of Saketri village and Sector 1, Mansa Devi Complex, in Panchkula.
The HC has slapped a fine of ₹100 crore each on Punjab and Haryana for causing damage to the catchment area and ordered demolition of all structures lying in it, as demarcated by the SoI in 2004. The court also ordered the two state governments and Chandigarh to relocate and compensate affected owners.
Confusion also prevails in Khuda Ali Sher village in Chandigarh. Hukum Chand, an ex-sarpanch, said: “We have the map downloaded from the internet but it is not very clear. Examining the map, it seems our village is not in the catchment area. But, officials and newspapers repeatedly say otherwise.”
The problem is acute for villagers who are said to be living on the edge of the catchment area. “One can zoom into the map and see for oneself where is the catchment area. The administration should make it clear,” said Amit Kumar, a resident of Khuda Ali Sher.