Tuesday, February 14, 2012

WETLAND ENCROACHMENT :: Cheating the environment : Fazilka Badha Lake

Gaurav Sagar Bhaskar 

FEROZEPUR: PUDA PLOT' Matter in HC, yet on 24-hr notice, 56 bidders given space in proposed colony on Fazilka's threatened lake

FEROZEPUR: Matter's in court, yet PUDA has auctioned 56 residential plots of its proposed colony at the Badha wetland in Fazilka.

The Punjab and Haryana high court is yet to give verdict on encroachment of the lake but the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) is on with developing the land in question, social activist Navdeep Asija of Fazilka, who filed a writ petition against the project in the high court, has now said.

"The state government acquired the land in the eco-sensitive zone under the 'optimum use of vacant space' rule," Asija had stated in the high court, which ordered that further action on his petition would be subject to further order.

The forest and wildlife department and Punjab pollution control board are required to submit reply in the court before March 21, the day of next hearing. However on Monday, PUDA put the plot on auction hurriedly in Bathinda on just 24-hour notice. It worked with haste, even though the charge relates to huge environmental discrepancies, including favours given to politicians and bureaucrats.

"In the high court, the Punjab state science and technology council accepted the report of Dr SS Ladhar on the matter and recommended every possible effort to save the wetland," Asija stated on Monday in Fazilka.

"The estate officer PUDA, through aware of the matter, involved third-party interest in the illegal work after proposing a residential colony in the ecosensitive zone."

For the project, PUDA didn't secure any approval or permission from the forest and wildlife department and pollution control board, Asija has claimed.

"To save his stake, the estate officer organised the illegal auction even when the code of conduct for elections is still in force," the petitioner said. "It is gross violation of the high court and election commission instructions." In a letter to the election commission of India, Asija has called for special action against the officials who had violated the code.

Reacting to the accusation, Abhinav Trikha, estate officer of Bathinda, termed the auction legal. "The high court had imposed no stay on bidding," he said. "The allotment of plots was transparent, and through draw of lots, all within the code of conduct for elections."

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh Edition, Page 2, 14th February 2012

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