The deadline for sending in suggestions and objections for the soon-to-be-introduced Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act, 2009, has been extended till September 30. The earlier deadline was August 31 and the one-month extension was announced on Wednesday.
Once implemented, Maharashtra will be the first state in the country to regulate and have stringent measures in place to check misuse of groundwater, deteriorating quality of groundwater, rampant digging of borewells and permissible depth for digging, among others.
The act will also restrict farmers from taking up heavily water-dependent crops in areas where there is known shortage in the groundwater tables. On the positive side, they would be provided with a forecast of the groundwater situation ahead of every cropping season, ensuring sustained availability of water.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Shekhar Gaikwad, the director, Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA), said, “The state government has so far received fewer suggestions or objections in this regard and the date now stands extended till September 30, as announced on September 5.” A team of hydrologists, geologists and other experts from the GSDA, Pune, were involved in the drafting of the act for the past three years.
According to the proposed act, bore wells will no longer be permitted to be dug beyond 60 m (200 feet) from the ground surface and requirement for the digging of a deeper well would need special permissions, informed the director. “These wells will specifically serve only drinking water purpose,” the act mentions.
Most of the suggestions received by the state government in the past one month are from rural areas, the GSDA official said.
On the nature of suggestions made, Gaikwad said: “Since agencies involved in digging borewells now need to register and will be able to take up digging activities only at designated sites, some comments on charges for registration were mentioned. Also, there was [a] suggestion that farmers should not face any harassment due to the restriction on drawing water, as per the new act.” The act, once enforced, can penalize any company, industry or private parties found polluting the groundwater.
“There will be quality tests undertaken and any departure in the water quality found due to an agency will face prosecution,” said another official from the GSDA. In 2018, 17,000 samples of 66 lakh were found to be contaminated with fluoride.