NGT Directives On Ground Water Extraction
On 20th July, while hearing a plea seeking direction to check the depleting groundwater level in the country, a Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a slew of directions.
The Bench Preferred Sustainability over Development
- The tribunal expressed unhappiness with the Central Ground Water Board's (CGWB) submission that the restriction on the extraction of groundwater in overexploited, and critical and semi-critical areas are likely to have an adverse impact on industrial production, employment opportunities and GDP of some states.
- The green panel refused to review its order disallowing grant of ''No Objection Certificate'' to industries in Over-exploited, Critical and Semi-critical (OCS)areas and said exemptions for infrastructure projects, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises or other industries or commercial purposes except drinking water will be against sustainable development and public trust doctrine.
Highlights of its Order
Environment Impact Assessment: A Must for Commercial Extraction
- There must be no general permission for withdrawal of groundwater, particularly to any commercial entity, without environment impact assessment of such activity on individual assessment units in cumulative terms covering carrying capacity aspects by an expert committee.
Permission should not for Perpetuity
- Permission for extraction should be for specified times and for specified quantities of water and not in perpetuity. Permission should as per Water Management Plans to be prepared, based on mapping of individual assessment units.
Transparency and Compliance
- An annual review by independent and expert evaluation must audit and record ground water levels as well as compliance with the conditions of the permission.
- Such audits must be published online for transparency and to track compliance and year-on-year change in ground water levels.
- Swift action will be taken against those who fail the audit, including withdrawal of permission, blacklisting, initiation of prosecution and recovery of deterrent compensation.
- The Water Management Plans, data on water availability or scarcity and policy of the CGWA must be uploaded on its website for transparency and public involvement in next three months.
Direction to Jal Shakti Ministry & CGWA
- The Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) have been asked to have a meaningful regulatory regime and institutional mechanisms for ensuring prevention of depletion and unauthorized extraction of ground water and sustainable management of groundwater in over-exploited, critical and semi-critical (OCS) areas.
Water Mapping of OCS Areas
- Water mapping of all OCS assessment units to be carried out and Water Management Plans need to be prepared for all OCS assessment units in the country based on the mapping data, starting with overexploited blocks.
- As per an earlier order, undertake an impact study in light of projected data for the next 50 years (in phased manner with action plan decade-wise).