BANNING all mining activity in the village ponds throughout Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Wednesday directed the state government to remove all the encroachments and unauthorised constructions from such water bodies within a period of six months.
A division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu also ordered the Punjab Pollution Control Board to monitor the quality of water of the village ponds and further directed the deputy commissioners throughout the state to ensure that no untreated sewage is allowed to enter the village ponds.
“The State of Punjab shall ensure that all the village ponds are revived, repaired, renovated, rejuvenated after restoration within a period of six months from today,” the court said in the order, while also observing that it is the constitutional duty of the gram panchayats to safeguard the water bodies falling in their territorial jurisdictions.
In another significant direction, the court directed the state government to upgrade the revenue record of all the village ponds within a period of six months from Wednesday. While banning the mining activity in the village ponds, the court has ordered the state to take stringent action against the defaulters.
The order came on a petition filed by Terjinder Kumar and others alleging that certain people were illegally mining sand from the pond in village Kang Araya in Jalandhar’s Phillaur. The government counsel in reply told the court that the District Development and Panchayat Officer, Jalandhar is seized of the matter and has sent the mining officials to visit the spot to verify the facts. She assured the court that appropriate action will be taken against the defaulters.
However, the division bench, while considering the larger public interest, enlarged the scope of the writ petition “to save” the village ponds throughout the state. It observed that the village ponds are essential for recharging of groundwater, are part of the ecosystem and also support aquatic life.
“The court can take judicial notice of the fact that maximum number of village ponds have been encroached upon and unauthorised construction has been raised with impunity. The encroachment has also been made on catchment areas as well. The untreated sewerage/sewage is permitted to be let off in the village ponds affecting the fragile ecology of the area,” the order reads.
While stressing on the urgent need to “revive, conserve, preserve, repair, rejuvenate and restore” the village ponds, the court also said the modus operandi adopted by people is that they fill up the ponds with soil and thereafter encroach upon and raise construction there. The court has disposed of the petiiton on the first hearing itself.
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