Fazilka citizens protest against planned encroachment on ecosensitive Badha lake wetland by Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA)

PUDA's new colony being planned for sale in the vicinity of Badha Lake Wetland Fazilka falls under the eco-sensitive Zone.

Forwarded to the portal by: Graduates Welfare Association, Fazilka

Fazilka Citizens protest against Punjab Urban Development Authority's (PUDA) planned encroachment on ecosensitive Badha Lake WetlandThis is letter we would like to draw your kind attention towards recent advertisement appeared (Annex A) in various news papers by Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) for the new colony being planned for sale in the vicinity of Badha Lake Wetland Fazilka. This entire colony falls under the eco-sensitive Zone of Fazilka Badha Wetland.

Half of the colony planned after Alamsha distributor falls under the flood plain of and discharge basin of river Satluj (earlier this used to get its water feed from river Satluj) at the time of flooding. In September, 1988 floods this entire area behind the irrigation minor was submerged under water irrigation minor presently define municipal boundary limit of Fazilka and acting as a safety bund to protect Fazilka against flood. Planning residential colony in this flood plan where the plinth level of proposed houses is 1-2m below the existing High flood level (HFL) of this area is not only a violation of building bylaws but also a violation of special recommendations by Disaster Management Group, Government of India.

Construction of residential block at this location required cutting of hundreds of grownup trees; which is providing natural shelter to Fazilka wildlife also and a home of national bird peacocks. (Annex B) Inquiry on the killing of peacocks is already underway by the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Government of India at Fazilka. (Annex C). Furthermost in the month of June 2011, Punjab government initiated the peacock breading project for the Malwa belt and selected this Fazilka region for that (Annex D). It seems PUDA is least concerned over the Wildlife Protection and preservation norms of India.

Information revelled that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been done for this colony as per Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 by Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India from Punjab State Pollution Control Board, Patiala. Interestingly PUDA had sent notice and registered FIR to the three other private builders who planned illegal colony in the vicinity of Badha Lake and now they are all set to perform this criminal act at their own. (Annex E)

This is the most critical issue for every citizen living in Fazilka and further loss of Badha Lake wetland at Fazilka would bring disaster in by disturbing the fragile ecosystem of Fazilka. Fazilka was established by Britsh Mr Patric Van Agnew in 1844 on the banks of this horse shoe lake. Till late 80 Fazilka’s eco-system was perfectly balanced by three wetlands namely — Badha, Jhangar, and Ganj Bakhash. As per the report of Punjab Science and Technology Council, these three were among the 32 old natural wetlands in the Punjab state(Annex F), which are now almost on the verge of disappearance mainly due to the unplanned development process that has transformed these sites into dry farmlands. Also the vote bank politics allows contractors to sell sand under the riverbed of Badha Lake.

Out of three, at present Badha wetland is the worst hit, because of diverting Satluj river water to the adjacent state by the Central Water Commission, Government of India. This has been done to undoubtedly win over vote bank; the diversion has made the lake fluoride-ridden, with an increase in the total dissolved solids in groundwater. In an article by V K Joshi, former Director, Geological Survey of India (GSI) named Fazilka on fluoride red alert list. Recent studies have shown that the fluoride content in tube-well water in Fazilka is 6 to 12 mg per litre. Almost 70 per cent of Fazilka’s population suffers from dental decay. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for fluoride content is 1-1.5 mg /l.

In the year 2000, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology (PSCST) warned in their report to state environment department that the conservation of these wetlands is essential. However, at that time Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepur, Mr. Kulbir Singh Sidhu, assured of all efforts to retrieve these sites as the natural habitats of migratory bird but no action has been taken as yet.

Other than a colony, Lake Bed is a favourite spot for sand miners. Initially land has been illegally used for sand mining. Later, this has been regularized without considering its impact on the environment. Sand mining on river bed always leads to drying up of riverbeds soon after monsoon lowers the ground water table and increase salinity in ground water. Fauna of this area has already been damaged due to depletion of water body, which was providing natural habitat to birds like sparrows, peacocks, parrot etc. Peacock and many other rare species from this area have already been entered into endangered species list of Punjab wildlife department. So far, no strategy by the wildlife department has been formulated to protect the fauna of this area.

Till late 60s Badha lake wetland and its vicinity was popular due to arrival of migratory birds there. Birds from Siberia used to come to this lake earlier. Badha Lake wetland area was popular as a small bird Sanctuary. Palla's Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) was one of the famous migratory birds at Badha Lake wetland. This lake was one of the breeding ground for Palla’s fish eagle after Harike-Pattan in Punjab. Due to drying up of Badha Lake and other wetland this bird has entered into International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Natural systems of ground water recharging through wetlands of the region has almost lost due to criminal negligence and greedy deeds of mankind and further this criminal act of PUDA by planning a colony in this wetland region simply reflect the insensitivity of concerned authorities towards the environment of the city and state. Entire Fazilka biodiversity is going to affect. Wetlands are rich in biological diversity and are recognized amongst the most productive ecosystems and instead of recharging back and making that area as biodiversity Park for Fazilka PUDA is planning for residential unit without making any provision in Master Plan. Unfortunately, instead of preserving this lake and wetland area, an illegal colony against all environmental norms is planned by PUDA there.

Thorough this letter, we hereby request you to kindly take necessary action in this regard to save the future of the citizen of this small beautiful border town. Necessary news paper cuttings and documents showing location of Badha Lake on survey of India (Annex G) is enclosed with this letter. God fearing and hopeful citizen of Fazilka would be delighted if the prompt and necessary action shall be taken up in this regards.

Looking forward your strong and prompt action in this regards,

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