Politicians, social activists, farmer leaders, environmentalists joined protest to oppose govt’s move, saying the Mattewara project will have huge impact on environment
Mattewara: The Punjab government’s proposal to set up a mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel Park in Mattewara forest in Ludhiana’s Sekhowal village along the Sutlej has raised the hackles of politicians and area residents.
A large number of people, including politicians, social activists, farmer leaders, trade unionists and environmentalists joined a protest outside a gurdwara located on the banks of Sutlej in the area on Sunday to oppose the government’s move of setting up of the textile park.
The previous Congress government under chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh mooted the project in July 2020 and the government has already acquired 956.99 acres from nearby villages. Though the site where the textile park is set to come up does not fall under forest area, it is sandwiched between two chunks of protected area.
As the protest was on, chief minister Bhagwant Mann also invited members of the Public Action Committee (PAC), an NGO spearheading the protest, to express their concern about the project in Chandigarh on Monday.
Will endanger existence of forest, pollute Sutlej’
The PAC had invited residents at the project site of the textile park to draw their attention towards the possible impact of industry on the environment. The project is being planned between the Sutlej and the Mattewara forest. This will have a huge impact on environment. It is up to residents to decide, said PAC member Jaskirat Singh. The industrial park will not only endanger the existence of the forest but would pollute the Sutlej, according to the PAC.
On the occasion, leaders, including Sangrur MP Simranjit Singh Mann and farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal raised the issue of SYL canal and central government’s move of water distribution with other states. They said that the Centre awarded waters from its rivers to states such as Haryana and Rajasthan in violation of riparian principles.
Mann said that he would not let the government set up a textile park near the banks of Sutlej and raise the issue in Parliament. “The government has spent crores of rupees but failed to clean the Buddha Nullah, which further pollutes the water in Sutlej. The Malwa region has become a cancer belt just because of effluents discharge form the Ludhiana industry,” said Mann.
Rajewal said that the Punjab government is being operated from Delhi through remote control. She said that Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) is supporting the protest and will not let any industrial activity in the eco-sensitive zone.
Will not create job opportunities: Khaira
Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira said the industrial park will not lead to any job creation for the local residents and the area will become yet another colony of cheap migrant labour as it was witnessed during the previous industrial project where migrant labour from other states were preferred over local youth. This is also leading to demographic shift in the industrial city, he said.
Former diplomat KC Singh targeted environmentalist and Rajya Sabha member Balbir Singh Seechewal, who initiated the movement to mobilise the opposition against the settings of industrial park, for being silent on the issue.
AAP backtracked on its promise: Pargat
Former India Hockey captain and Congress MLA Pargat Singh accused AAP of playing with the sentiment for people by invoking environmental issues and later backtracking from it after coming into power. “In June 2020, the gram sabha of Sekhowal village had passed a resolution opposing the park in the presence of AAP MLA (Jagraon) Sarvjit Kaur Manuke. The legislator had also extended support to the villagers and had promised to shelve the project if the party was voted to power. The videos of each one of them are available in public domain. Is it not cheating with the people of the state? AAP has played with the sentiments of people just to grab power. Now that the AAP has come to power, they are backtracking from their promises,” said Pargat Singh.
Former minister Maheshinder Singh Grewal and SAD leader Ranjit Singh Dhillon said the party had decided to extend its support to the protest and appealed to environmentalists to unite to thwart the AAP government’s decision to choke the “green lungs” of Ludhiana.
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring expressed regret that former Congress leader and chief minister capt Amarinder Singh had approved the project. He said the Congress will fight and will not let the setting up of any polluting industries in eco-sensitive zone.