Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Chandigarh, July 11
The Punjab Government on Monday scrapped the proposed textile park project in the vicinity of the Mattewara forest area adjoining the Sutlej in Ludhiana.
The decision came after a meeting with the eight-member Public Action Committee (PAC) on the issue. “The Mattewara project is scrapped. No park will be set up,” read a government tweet after the meeting with the PAC.
Park was to come up on 1,000 acres
- The industrial park project was to be set up on 1,000 acres in Sekhowal, Garhi Fazal and adjoining villages near the Mattewara forest and the Sutlej
- The Mattewara forest is spread over around 750 hectares. There are eight more forests nearby in Garhi Fazal, Haider Nagar and other sites
- Environmentalists have been protesting against the proposed textile project as they believe it would destroy the forest, damage the flood plains of the Sutlej and pollute the water
The meeting was called after a massive protest by political leaders, farmers, NGOs and the public at the proposed site on Sunday, asking the government to withdraw its project on 1,000 acres finalised under the previous Congress regime in July 2020. Protests were going on at the site for the past nearly two years.
After the meeting, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said: “Not only in Mattewara, but the state government will not allow any industry to come up on any of the river banks of Punjab.”
He said ex-CM Capt Amarinder Singh gave the nod to the project envisaged by the Centre for setting up a textile park on 1,000 acres without even thinking about its pros and cons. “He totally ignored the castigating effects the project will have on the environment and ecology of the state. Besides cutting of trees, this project will also pollute the river water and jeopardise the human life along with flora and fauna in the region,” Mann added.
The CM further said the state government was ready to allot a new chunk of land for the proposed textile park with the condition that it doesn’t pollute the waters of the state.
Talking to The Tribune after the meeting, PAC member Kapil Arora said: “We are satisfied with CM Mann’s assurance to scrap the project. Not just Mattewara, we have asked the government to take care of the threat to the green cover across the state.”
Another PAC member Kuldeep Singh Khaira said: “The project posed serious threat to the environment and ecology of the area. The government has assured that all water bodies in the state will be exempted from setting up any industrial park. It also assured us the land for the Mattewara project will now be used to set up a biodiversity park.”
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said: “I had written a letter to Mann against the project on June 26. The CM has succumbed to the public pressure. The AAP government wouldn’t want to upset the public again after Sidhu Moosewala’s killing.”
Former Congress minister Pargat Singh said: “I had staged a dharna against the project in Mattewara in 2020 during the Capt Amarinder Singh government. This is a flood plain area adjoining the natural forest. The bureaucracy has been long pushing the project and we have always opposed it tooth and nail.”
TIMELINE OF INCIDENTS
JULY 2020: Sekhowal villagers organised a gram sabha against Cong govt’s proposal to acquire panchayat land for the industrial park. A PAC was formed to save the Mattewara forest, the Sutlej and its flood plains
August: AAP leaders Harpal Cheema and Sarvjit Manuke visited Sekhowal village against the govt’s move to acquire the land
May 2021: After hearing the application filed by PAC members — Kapil Arora and Kuldeep Khaira, the NGT directed the Chief Secretary to take remedial action for the protection of flood plains
November: Environmentalist Medha Patkar (who led Narmada Bachao Andolan) visited Mattewara and urged people to launch a ‘Jan Andolan’ to save the Sutlej, forest and Buddha ‘dariya’
May 2022: Kashmir Singh of Sekhowal moved the HC against the park to be set up on the acquired land. Earlier, a group of villagers had moved the local court
June: PAC members intensified their stir when the AAP govt announced its plan (during the Budget session) to set up the textile park
July 10: The PAC gained huge response for its ‘Mattewara Chalo’ event when the Congress, SAD, SAD (A), SGPC, farm bodies, in addition to a large number of NGOs participated in it
July 11: PAC members meet the Chief Minister, who decided to scrap the Mattewara textile park project
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