By Amandeep Sandhu
Panjab is now a tiny state, just 50362 sq Km. As per the Forest Survey of India Report 2021, forest cover is 3.67 per cent. However, this percentage includes trees on sides of major roads, trees along canals, Poplar and Eucalyptus in farms, trees in parks and so on. The forest cover inside real forest area is actually only 1.5% or so. Out of forest land – 3084 sq Km – forest land with actual forest is 788 Sq Km.
Mattewara, on the banks of Satluj river, is a 2,300 acres forest in district Ludhiana. The proposal to build a Modern Industrial Park – which means bringing in water-polluting dyeing industry – on the banks of River Satluj, next to the Mattewara forest and Deer Park, was conceived by Congress under the PM-MITRA plan.
It is here, in Mattewara, that environmentalists in Panjab are engaged in a battle with past two Congress governments and now Bhagwant Mann’s AAP. In the recently concluded Vidhan Sabha session, the CM announced around 950 acres of land for the Industrial Park has already been acquired. In the same breath, he announced, that the forest will ‘not be disturbed’ and the factories would be ‘chemical free’.
वर्कर्स यूनिटी को सपोर्ट करने के लिए सब्स्क्रिप्शन ज़रूर लें- यहां क्लिक करें
It is really tragic that a state already past the environmental degradation levels in water depletion, soil erosion, and general health indices, suffers the same evils under successive governments. When, in fact, in Bhagwant Mann’s own words before elections ‘there is Gobindgarh, Gobindpura, Batala, Rajpura and so many other sites within the state’.
Typical of the party, AAP has changed the name of the project to Koom Kalan. They know: change the name of the project, the representation changes. But the reality does not change.
Balbir Singh Seechewal, noted environmentalist, who had helped prepare a Green Manifesto against the project is now nominated to Rajya Sabha. He says, ‘If the project will not pollute, we must not slander it.’ How their tongues get locked when they occupy positions!
- आंध्र प्रदेश: किसानों ने जगन सरकार की अमरावती में 248 एकड़ जमीन नीलाम करने के फैसले का किया विरोध
- हसदेव अरण्यः सूख जाएगी हसदेव और अरपा नदी, हाथी और दुर्लभ पशु पक्षियों का जीवन ख़तरे में
It is a no brainer that industry pollutes. It sucks out the water from the soil. It dirties the river plains. Its smoke pollutes the air. The Mattewara bio-diversity, so critical for Panjab already smothered by monoculture in farming, will be affected. The nilgais, antelopes, birds in the forest, will disappear.
The one bulwark as of now is village Sekhowal, adjacent to Mattewara, whose gram panchayat has passed a resolution against the take over of 407 acres of their so called already ‘acquired’ land. Many civil society groups and individuals are speaking up. But the government?
How long will a village stand against the corporate political administration is to be seen.