Punjab CM promises to protect Sukhna lake

Sukhna Lake and an overcast sky.   | Photo Credit: Akhilesh Kumar

A day after the Punjab and Haryana High Court declared Chandigarh’s Sukhna lake as a living entity, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has asked Advocate General Atul Nanda to examine, in detail, the High Court order with respect to constructions in the area around Sukhna lake.

The Chief Minister on Tuesday told journalists that his government had received a copy of the judgment today and the Advocate General would examine it and make his recommendations.

“The State government will take whatever decisions, legislative or judicial, needed to resolve the issue. We stand by the people and will do everything to protect their interests,” he said in response to a question here.

States fined

The court directed Punjab and Haryana to pay ₹100 crore each as exemplary, punitive, special damages for restoration of the catchment area of Sukhna lake falling in their respective areas. This amount shall be deposited with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The Bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu also ordered the demolition of all the structures in Sukhna’s catchment area.

The court orders have come in a suo motu petition of 2009 initiated over problems of silt in the lake, which has resulted in its drying up.

In its order on March 2, the court observed that “...the acts of the States of Punjab, Haryana have caused permanent damage to the catchment area of Sukhna lake. It was expected from the State agencies to foresee that the permanent structures in a catchment area would impede the flow of water in Sukhna lake”.

‘Enormous damage’

“The States should have taken precautionary measures to save the catchment of Sukhna lake. It is the duty of the States of Punjab and Haryana to restore the catchment area. The State government has also failed to take precautionary measures to save the catchment area. The damage caused to the catchment area is enormous. The State is bound to pay exemplary-penal damages under the doctrine of ‘Polluter Pays’,” read the order.

It added: “The officers-officials of the States of Punjab and Haryana, instead of protecting-conserving-saving the catchment area, have permitted raising of permanent structures in this area. Since immense damage has been caused to the catchment area of Sukhna lake, at least ₹200 crore would be required to restore the catchment area.”

The court also declared Sukhna as a living entity. “We, by invoking our parens patriae jurisdiction, declare Sukhna lake as legal entity-legal person-juristic person-juridicial person-moral person-artificial person for its survival, preservation and conservation having distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. All the citizens of Union Territory, Chandigarh, are hereby declared as loco parentis as the human face to save Sukhna lake from extinction,” read the order.

‘Illegal, unauthorised’

The court also declared all commercial, residential and/or other structures constructed in the catchment area falling in the areas of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, as delineated in the map prepared by the Survey of India on 21.9.2004, as illegal and unauthorised, and ordered them to be demolished within three months.

Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh have also been directed to provide alternative sites to the owners whose building maps were approved and who have constructed their buildings in the catchment area, for their rehabilitation after the demolition of their houses. The States and UT shall also pay compensation of ₹25 lakh uniformly to these owners.


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 7:59:33 PM |

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