The state government has reportedly accepted many of the rules and regulations suggested under the proposed Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act. A draft of the Act, with proposals put together by a team of geologists from the city-based Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA), was shared with various government departments such as finance and water resources, as well as the state pollution control board, among others, in November 2018.
After analysing the proposals, the ministries had also given their suggestions for the draft Act. “Most of the rules stand accepted and will be implemented once the Act comes into force,” said a senior geologist from GSDA, who was a member in the drafting committee.
The Act was supposed to be implemented last year but saw several delays. The state government’s nod to most of the regulations is a crucial step forward, said GSDA officials.
Once the Act comes into effect, Maharashtra will become the first Indian state to introduce regulatory measures to curb the misuse of groundwater reserves. While there are some regulations in place, they were proving ineffective to control the misuse of water in the vast expanse of Deccan plateau, known for the poor seepage capacity of rainwater.
The draft Act, however, has raised concerns among farmers and other stakeholders about certain rules, such as licensing of every well and their geo-tagging. But GSDA officials believe that all these processes will be completed online, leaving no scope for any kind of discrepancies. It has also become the need of the hour to bring accountability and introduce regulations against the rampant usage of groundwater reserves, said GSDA officials.
The Act aims to keep a check on usage of groundwater, enforce quality checks and have a fixed depth for digging borewells. Authorities will monitor digging of borewell in real time to prevent misuse of groundwater reserves.
As per an analysis conducted in January, the groundwater reserves in over 11,000 villages has depleted to dangerous levels, as the state is experiencing the worst drought-like situation since 2012.
As per the present rules, digging of borewells beyond 60 metres (200 feet) below the ground is not permissible. However, there are some pockets in Amravati and Jalgaon where wells have been dug over 1,200 feet deep and are now categorised as critical wells.