Amrinder Singh

Chandigarh: After remaining silent for one week on pollution of Beas waters and resultant death of marine life, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday warned against laxity in dumping of molasses into the river or any leniency.

He also sought a report on the inquiry into the matter by Thursday.

The Chief Minister, who was holidaying in Manali in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, directed agencies concerned “to vigorously pursue legal and penal action against the offenders”.

The Congress government in Punjab drew flak from opposition Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party for not taking action against owners of Chadha Sugar Mill in Kirri Afghana village in Gurdaspur district, from where molasses were thrown into the Beas river, leading to the death of hundreds of fishes downstream and contamination of water in Punjab and Rajasthan.

The mill owners are considered close to the Chief Minister and other senior Congress leaders in Punjab.

“Reviewing the progress of action taken so far by government agencies, the Chief Minister also sought a detailed report by tomorrow (Thursday), from the Environment Department on the inquiry initiated into the incident, which damaged aquatic life and polluted river waters as well as disturbed canal-based water supply in southern districts of Faridkot, Muktsar and Fazilka,” a spokesman for the Chief Minister said here.

“The Chief Minister directed officials to ensure no leniency is shown to those responsible for the incident and that stringent action is taken against them,” he added.

The Punjab Pollution Control Board is scheduled to hold a formal hearing into the matter on Thursday.

“Prosecution had already been initiated by the Department of Wildlife for the loss of aquatic life. The Department of Water Resources has also initiated legal proceedings against offender distillery under the Canal and Drainage Act,” he claimed.

The Chief Minister also reviewed the steps taken to check quality of canal water supplied in affected areas.

As per reports based on samples collected by the Punjab Pollution Control Board at different places, the quality of raw canal water had almost normalised, the Spokesman claimed.

The Chief Minister has ordered immediate release of additional fresh water into the Beas to further stabilise the situation, he added.

“As a precautionary measure, water supply agencies have initiated cleaning of water works to preclude any possibility of contaminated treated water being supplied to the local population. The agencies will make interim arrangements, wherever necessary, through supply of free water from RO plants or through tankers during cleaning of the water works,” the spokesman added.

SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal had accused the government of shielding the sugar mill owners as they belong to the family of Paramjit Singh Sarna, whom Badal described as “religious adviser to the Chief Minister”.