The Comptroller and Auditor General has found that 2,475 of 3,189 packaged drinking water units granted licenses by the Bureau of Indian Standards were operating without no-objection certificates from the Central Ground Water Board.
The findings are part of a CAG report that contains the observations from the performance audit of ground water management and regulation for 2013-18. The report was tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday.
“Audit observed that in 15 States for which data was made available to audit, BIS licenses were issued to 3,189 packaged drinking water units since 2013. Of these, only 642 proponents obtained NOC from CGWA/State authorities for ground water extraction,” the report said.
“Thus, in 2,475 of 3,189 cases i.e. in 78 per cent of the licenses granted by BIS, the project proponents were operating without obtaining NOCs from CGWA,” it said.
The report added: “In the absence of a mandatory linkage between licenses granted by BIS and the obtaining of NOC from CGWA, the instances of project proponents not obtaining NOC may persist.”
“The Department accepted (October 2019) that there was a gap in the number of NOCs obtained by Packaged Drinking Water units and the licenses granted by BIS. DoWR,RD&GR [Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation] further stated (September 2020) that CGWA had held meetings with FSSAI, wherein it was agreed that FSSAI would not issue license to industries that do not have NOC for ground water extraction,” it said.
The report highlighted that there is no provision in the Rules and Regulations of BIS for imposing the condition of obtaining NOC from CGWA before grant of license to Packaged Drinking Water units.
The CAG also found that out of 328 cases across 18 states, only 75 projects were functioning with requisite NOCs from the state pollution control boards or committees.
“Audit examined a sample of 328 cases in 18 States where the CTO granted to a project proponent included a condition which required NOC for ground water extraction, and found that only 75 projects in 13 States/ UTs had obtained the requisite NOCs. Thus, 253 projects (77 per cent) were operating without NOCs,” says the report.
The report also highlighted the lack of facilities to monitor the ground water level in the country.
“Against the proposed number of 50,000 observation wells (by the end of the XII Plan period i.e. 2012-17) to measure ground water level, a network of only 15,851 observation wells were being monitored as of 31 March 2019,” the report said.
“There was (a) shortage of human resources in Scientific and Engineering categories in CGWB and its regional and divisional offices. As of March 2019, there was a vacancy of 37.51 per cent, 26.93 per cent and 26.60 per cent in the Scientific, Engineering and Ministerial categories respectively. In spite of shortage of technical workforce, some of the Regional Offices had also deputed their technical staff (Scientific and Engineering) for administrative work,” it said.
Ground water use up
The percentage of utilisation of ground water with respect to recharge, known as the ‘stage of extraction’, was 63 per cent in the country. A ‘stage of extraction’ above 100 per cent indicates that extraction has surpassed recharge.
“In 13 States/UTs, the stage of extraction was higher than the national stage of extraction. Four States/UTs (Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan) had a stage of extraction of more than 100 per cent…. At the district level, in 24 States/UTs, 267 districts had stage of extraction more than 63 per cent ranging from 64 per cent to 385 per cent,” the report said.
“During the period 2004 to 2017, the stage of extraction of ground water has increased from 58 to 63 per cent,” the report said.