Following the objections raised by the Chandigarh Administration, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has rejected Punjab Government’s proposal of only 100 meters of eco-sensitive area around Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. A letter in this regard has been received by Punjab Government and Chandigarh Administration.
Confirming the development, Debendra Dalai, Chief Conservator of Forests, UT Chandigarh said, Punjab Government has been asked to submit a revised proposal for ESZ around Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary after consulting the UT Administration.
He said that the Administration had objected to Punjab Government’s proposal and had written to the MoEF regarding this. The ESZ around the wildlife sanctuary is essential to act as a shock absorber. The Administration had stated that Punjab’s ESZ proposal would immensely damage the wildlife and have adverse impact of the health of Sukhna Lake, he added. Rejecting the Punjab Government’s proposal, the MoEF in its letter has stated, “The Administration has raised objection to Punjab Government’s proposal of 100 meters of ESZ area around the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. It is recommended that the ESZ area should be one km. Consequently, Punjab Government is asked to revise its ESZ proposal and submit it again.”
The Ministry further stated, “Both the Governments of Punjab and Haryana should prepare their ESZ proposals in consultation with the UT Administration.” In 2017, Chandigarh had declared eco sensitive zone around the sanctuary in the area that falls within the boundary of union territory of Chandigarh. The width of this ESZ in Chandigarh ranges from 2 - 2.75 kms.
However, the area that falls under Punjab and Haryana is yet to be notified as ESZ. Punjab Government had last year sent a proposal to Government of India recommending only 100 meters width area as ESZ from the boundary of Sanctuary.
This is not the first time that Punjab Government has sent this proposal to the Union Ministry. In 2014 also, the neighboring Punjab Government had proposed just 100 meters area as ESZ around the Sanctuary. At that time also, after UT Administration’s objection, MoEF had asked Punjab Government to extend the ESZ area and submit a revised proposal to ensure protection of the wildlife sanctuary and Sukhna wetland. The Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary spreads over an area of 26 sq km. According to the UT officials, the catchment area around the Sanctuary is around 36 running kilometers. Out of the total area of catchment, around 10 percent of the perimeter of Sanctuary abuts the city and the major part is along neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.