Ban lifted on fishing in Sutlej

in view of the economic hardship faced by the fishing community in Ropar district and the fresh inflow of water, a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently passed an interim order lifting the ban on fishing in Sutlej river. Fishing activity along the 90-kilometre stretch of the river that falls in the district had been halted after large-scale fish deaths on November 17, 2001.

The ban was imposed as the river water had turned toxic due to excessive release of untreated effluents from a nearby industry. While issuing the interim order on January 1, 2002, the court directed the Punjab Pollution Control Board (pccb) to collect samples regularly for two weeks and submit a report. The principal secretary, department of environment, was also told to file an affidavit within two weeks.

According to N S Tiwana, executive director in the department of science, technology and environment, the High Court (hc) wants to know the reasons behind the failure of the authorities to prevent the discharge of untreated effluents into the river. The environment department has been asked to specify in the affidavit whether any area of the district received water supply from the river. The court has instructed the district administration to be more vigilant in the future. The next hearing has been fixed for January 30, 2002.

Welcoming the hc's interim order, fish contractor Ram Prasad Jaswal said that the local fisherfolk had suffered a serious economic setback due to the one-and-a-half-month-long ban in Ropar. "The authorities should mete out exemplary punishment to those responsible for the fish deaths so that such incidents do not recur,' said Jaswal. He is hoping that the compensation amount, which he has claimed against his loss for the pollution of his lease area in Sutlej river, would be determined in the subsequent hearing.

It is alleged that the mass fish deaths occurred due to toxic effluents discharged from the production plant of National Fertilisers Limited (nfl), located alongside the Sutlej. Though the local residents charge nfl with polluting the river, the company has denied its involvement in the matter. However, additional deputy commissioner Krishan Kumar's field report submitted in the court has recorded the statement of the villagers against nfl.

Though another industry