HC questions UT Admn on wetland status for Sukhna

CHANDIGARH: Just over six months after the UT Administration told the Punjab and Haryana High Court about its move to declare Sukhna Lake a wetland, the Bench today questioned it on the status.


ibune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6

Just over six months after the UT Administration told the Punjab and Haryana High Court about its move to declare Sukhna Lake a wetland, the Bench today questioned it on the status. The Bench asked UT counsel Pankaj Jain to specify whether the lake had been notified as wetland. Once in place, restrictions would be imposed on constructions around the lake.

The Bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul also questioned Jain on the progress since the constitution of an experts’ committee in August last year for the purpose of wetland declaration. Making clear its intent to hear the case on a day-to-day basis from March 18, the Bench reiterated its earlier direction on “no construction, no demolition” in the catchment area of the lake.

The direction came after senior advocate ML Sarin informed the court about construction activity in the area. It also took note of suggestions such as changing the slant of roads in the lake vicinity for the water to flow into the water body and connecting it with at least two other choes.

As the case came up for resumed hearing this afternoon, amicus curiae or the friend of the court, Tanu Bedi, informed the Bench on at least major issues identified for the purpose of being addressed during the course of hearing. The issues include preservation of the lake, construction in its catchment area, beautification and stray dogs on the lake premises.

At the very onset, Bedi addressed the court on the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, framed by the Government of India. She also told the Bench that the UT had a wetland authority in place since December 2017. She added that the authority had to declare wetlands within three months. Bedi also placed on record a 2016 study in an attempt to suggest that Sukhna was already identified as wetland.

The rules prohibit a range of activities in wetlands like setting up and expansion of industries, waste dumping and discharge of effluents.

Wetlands are areas where the water table is usually at, or near the surface. Or else, the land is covered by shallow water. The wetlands support rich biodiversity and offer extensive variety of ecosystem services such as water storage, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, aquifer recharge and others.

Available information suggests at least 115 wetlands have been officially identified by the Central government. Out of the total, 26 wetlands have been identified as wetlands of international importance.

Addressing the Bench, the counsel appearing for the state of Haryana sought a go-ahead for the setting up of a sewage treatment plant at Saketri and another place.

Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu told the Bench that the check dams created to keep the silt away and hold up the water were required to be revisited.

Elaborating, he said out of the total 200 check dams, about 70 to 80 were functional. He added that too many check dams were holding up the water, preventing it from flowing into the lake. He also referred to three check dams in a particular area that held up water, while placing before the Bench its photographs. He added that the dams were required to be cleaned up or demolished.

Sandhu added choes, such as Patiala Ki Rao and another passing from the Sector 10 area right up to Mohali, was required to be linked to the lake besides changing the slope of the roads in the area for the rainwater to feed the water body.