Citing “serious shortcomings”, the National Green Tribunal in an order has called into question the viability of the groundwater extraction guidelines issues by the Centre last month.
“There is no check on injection of pollutants in the ground water in the impugned notification. There is no provision with regard to check on water quality and its remediation, if there is contamination,” the January 3rd order by the principal bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice AK Goel noted.
The Centre on December 12 notified revised guidelines for groundwater extraction effective from June 1, 2018. It said it was aimed at a more “robust groundwater regulatory mechanism” and introduced the concept of Water Conservation Fee which is payable based on the category of the area, the type of industry and the quantum of groundwater extraction.
However, the NGT bench noted: “The so called regulation is illusory. The so called conditions are incapable of meaningful monitoring, as shown by past experience.” Further, “the water conservation fee virtually gives licence to harness ground water to any extent even in OCS (over-exploited, critical and semi-critical) areas.”
The bench also directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to constitute an expert committee including representatives from IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee, IIM Ahmedabad, CPCB, NITI Ayog and any other concerned agency or department “to examine the issue of appropriate policy for conservation of ground water with a robust institutional mechanism for surveillance and monitoring with a view to enhance access to ground water for drinking purposes in OCS areas by way of appropriate replenishment practices which can be properly accounted and measured for as well as to sustain the floodplains of rivers in terms of e-flows and other water bodies.”
The expert panel’s report may serve as the basis for fresh guidelines which the Centre is expected to submit to the green tribunal before April 30.