The molasses spillage from a sugar mill into Beas river has brought into focus the failure of the current Congress government in implementing its ‘green manifesto’ released before Punjab polls last year. The ‘green manifesto’ talked specifically about formation of a separate Punjab State Commission for Environment and Congress had claimed that this commission would work solely on environmental issues in the state and deal with incidents like Beas molasses spillage with a ‘tough hand’. However, a year after, the commission is yet to be established.
The manifesto had also promised a project to cleanse rivers of Punjab which had to commence with cleaning of Sutlej and Beas rivers. The other promises made by Congress in ‘green manifesto’ included improving tree cover, water resources management, making rainwater harvesting mandatory, reviving water bodies, making Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) ‘fully accountable’.
The manifesto read that ‘a separate state commission will be established by Congress government. The commission will be empowered to act as per the needs of environment and to protect environmental rights of people of Punjab to get clean air, pure and safe water, nutritious food and prevention and treatment of environment related diseases. The fundamental right of ‘Right to Life’ will be protected’.
The manifesto had also promised that Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) will be made ‘accountable’ to take strict action against ‘industries disposing industrial toxic waste into water bodies, rivers, canals, sewers and groundwater’.
It had also promised ‘rivers cleaning project’ and the formation of a committee including environmentalists and social reformers to spearhead the project. “The work of this project will start with the cleaning of Sutlej and Beas rivers,” the document had promised.
Finance minister Manpreet Badal had said that ‘party has prepared a green agenda for Punjab as degrading environment is one of the biggest concerns.’
“For Congress, degrading environment, depleting groundwater and reducing forest cover of Punjab is one the biggest concerns. We have come out with a concrete plan for environment issues in Punjab which no other party has ever done,” Badal had said back then.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a source from the PPCB said, “Not a single point mentioned in green manifesto of Congress has been worked upon yet. The project to clean Beas river should have been a priority seeing it has endangered Indus river dolphins which are freshwater species and also the ghariyals. The separate commission for environment too should have been a priority but nothing has been done yet.”
Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira from AAP said that he is ‘saddened by causal approach of Captain Amarinder Singh on environmental issues’.
“While Beas tragedy has happened now, we also fear extinction of several other species in rivers of Punjab due to pollution and failure of government to check it. Human lives as well as aquatic life is in danger in Punjab due to toxic materials being released in our rivers and just by sealing a sugar mill, CM cannot wash his hands of the matter,” said Khaira. He added that government has especially failed to check industries in Ludhiana releasing toxins in polluted Buddha Nullah stream which meets river Sutlej at village Walipur.
Punjab Environment Minister O P Soni said, “We have already taken action against the sugar mill responsible for this disaster in Beas. Promises made in green manifesto will also be fulfilled soon.”
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