The National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders last-week restraining Punjab from cutting trees have stalled the rehabilitation of the Bist Doab Canal meandering through Jalandhar and Nawanshahr districts.

Fearing widespread floods and no farming on 2.5 lakh acres in Doaba region this season in case the project is not over before June 30, the state irrigation department will move the green court in another three days and request it to vacate the order. Principal secretary for irrigation Kahan Singh Pannu said more trees were required to be sacrificed for the project. “The canal has already been demolished at many places and if the rehabilitation isn’t complete before monsoon, floods across the dismantled portions will destroy a huge amount of life and property,” he said.

The project is crucial for irrigating these 2.5-lakh acres in the Kharif season starting the first week of July. “The sowing will begin in about 40 days. We may fail to cultivate a large part of it, if we can’t use the canal,” said Pannu. Before the NGT order of May 20, the canal completion and the felling of trees were on a war footing. Two irrigation department circles led by superintending engineers and four divisions led by an executive engineer each were on the job. “All that has stopped but public interest requires that it be restarted,” said the principal secretary for irrigation.

Regretting that the irrigation department had not been made party to the case, Pannu claimed it had secured all the relevant permissions a few months ago, adding: “Even the department of forest in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change allowed us to axe trees.”

Source: May 24, 2016, Hindustan Times