Mathewara Village, located near Ludhiana, is in the news following the state government’s plan to set up a textile park here. The then Captain Amrinder Singh government approved the project in July 2020, which will be set up on 955.67 acres of land.
However, the state government is facing stiff opposition from local and NGOs. The local Panchayat has also passed a resolution not to allow Panchayat land to be converted to industrial estate. Of the total 955.67 acres, 463 acres belong to three gram panchayats.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, during the recent budget session, had informed the house that 493 acres of land had already been acquired with compensation. 492 acres of land belongs to the state government.
A group of NGOs, who have formed a Public Action Committee (PAC) against the textile park, staged a protest in Mathewaran on Sunday to assert themselves. Activists slammed the Aam Aadmi Party government for its landslide defeat on the issue.
“They are playing into the hands of the corporates. We will not let that happen. Arvind Kejriwal and other party leaders collected funds from industrialists before elections and are now selling industrial lands to them at throwaway prices,” noted political activist Professor Manjit Singh told the protesters.
Environment, river water pollution
Environmental and river water pollution are primary concerns.
Mathewara Textile Park is opposed primarily for two major reasons. One is the potential damage to the river’s waters and ecology by the affluent freed from the textile industry, and the other is the sanctity of the Madhewara forests.
Besides raising several environmental concerns like Sutlej river pollution, drinking water and reserve forest area and causing damage to biodiversity, the proposed site for a mega textile project is unsustainable, says the PAC.
“We are not anti-industry. This type of industrial development will ruin our lives. The government is trying to create a false narrative that trees will not be cut and sewage treatment plants will be constructed. The textile industry is not only polluting the river but also polluting the air. We want to breathe and live here,” says Gauravjit Singh, a member of local NGO Initiators of Change.
A senior citizen, Jaswant Singh, told India Today that a large number of cancer patients live in villages located in the catchment areas of the Sutlej River, which is classified as an ‘E’ category river with highly polluted stream.
“This textile park will pollute our environment. You can already see many cancer patients here. That is why we oppose this park. “Saving water, forests and the environment is the watchword here,” he says.
Religious Significance of Mathewara Forest
Mathewara Forest is a favorite of Sikhs.
Another reason why locals oppose the textile park in Mathewarois is the religious significance of the forest.
Sikh history says that the first and tenth Sikh Gurus were associated with this forest. While Guru Nanak Dev ji mentioned this forest as a guardian, Guru Gobind Singh fled to this forest in 1704 after being injured in the Battle of Samkaur Sahib. He also composed his famous song ‘Mitter Piare Nu’ in this forest.
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Spread over an area of 2,300 acres, Mathewara Forest Range is home to a wide variety of fauna and flora. Deforestation can wreak havoc on wild animals, and human activity reduces the area of declining forests.
A 2019 report says that only 3.67 percent of Punjab’s total geographical area is under forests. To achieve the required 33 per cent green cover, the state needs to raise 29.33 per cent green cover.
Meanwhile, the state government has clarified that an environmental assessment will be done before the start of the textile project.
The Chief Minister has assured that green trees will not be cut down and steps will be taken to minimize the impact of the textile park on the environment. However, the AAP-ruled state government has decided to go ahead with the project despite stiff opposition.
NGOs and local NGOs have threatened to stage an indefinite protest in Chandigarh if the authorities go ahead with the textile park project.
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