Thursday, September 6, 2012

Realty check for lake campaign - Badha Lake Fazilka

A blow has come to the efforts of a Right To Information (RTI) activist to save the Badha lake of Fazilka. A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday dismissed a civil writ petition against a proposed residential colony on the site. The project belongs to the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA).

RTI activist Navdeep Asija of Fazilka, who was behind the dismissed petition, will now move the Supreme Court of India. "Anything to save the lake," he said after the division bench comprising acting chief justice Jasbir Singh and justice Rakesh Jain dismissed the matter after many hearings.

Asija claims to still have the evidence that the lake existed at the site. In reply to his RTI petition, the state forest and wildlife preservation department had accepted that the site held more than 350 green trees and 40 saplings that required care. However, in the court it said it had nothing to do with the land and the case should be dismissed.

Asija also cites a reply from the Punjab state council for science and technology that says the Badha wetland is 30 hectares only, while it can regulate only a wetland bigger than 500 acres. "Nevertheless, the lake to be protected," said Asija.

The state government acquired the land under its "optimum use of vacant plots", overlooking that it was in an eco-sensitive zone. "In the high court, the Punjab state science and technology council accepted the expert report of Dr SS Ladhar and recommended every possible effort to save wetlands," said Asija.

PUDA had failed to seek project permission from the forest and wildlife department and pollution control board and the executive engineers concerned of the drainage, electricity, pubic works, and town and country planning departments.

In 1844, British administrator Patrick Vans Agnew chose the banks of the Badha lake as the site for Fazilka city. The wetland's biodiversity attracted him to build his first bungalow by its waters.

Till 1980s, the lake was Fazilka's main source of drinking water. Mankind's greed choked the natural flow of the Sutlej river that used to recharge the lake with fresh water every year. Revenue record submitted to the court during one of the hearings suggest that from 1977 to 1995, the lake was the fish-farming ground and panchayat made revenue from it.

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