October 17, 2018 8:18:21 am
Two months after the Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act was made public for suggestions and objections, an expert committee has been constituted to look into and study the feedbacks submitted for the proposed Act. A total of 4,100 suggestions and objections have been received and a committee, led by I I Shah, additional director, Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA), will review each of these during the next two months. The other team members of the committee include a deputy collector, deputy secretary and a team of geologists from GSDA.
“We will be scrutinising each of the 4,100 messages received for this proposed Act. Since the number is big and each one needs to be addressed, we have requested the state government to grant us some time,” Shah told The Indian Express.
The state government proposes to introduce the Act with an aim to curb the rampant misuse of groundwater reserves, which in recent years have been shrinking dramatically. Accordingly, city-headquartered GSDA was entrusted in drafting rules and policies for this Act. The forum for sending suggestions ended on September 30, after been given a month-long extension. “Once we complete the review, which we think will be done by the end of this year, we will submit the same to the state government for further processing,” said Shah.
Once implemented, Maharashtra will become the first state to have stringent measures to check not only the misuse of groundwater but also monitor the quality of groundwater, fix permissible depth for borewells and introduce mandatory registration for these wells. “One of the major objections is for the borewell registration, which will be an online process and may not be user-friendly for the well owners, most of whom are farmers. Also, this may be misused to harass farmers,” stated a GSDA official, involved in the process.
From the proposed Act, what appears actionable is the quality check of groundwater reserves. “As per the Act, those found guilty of compromising the groundwater quality will be liable to legal prosecution. It could be a company or an individual,” the official said.
As per the proposed Act, farmers would no longer be able to cultivate heavily water-dependent crops in areas with scanty groundwater reserves. “Farmers will be provided a timely forecast on the groundwater situation ahead of every cropping season,” said the official.
The Act curbs digging of borewells beyond 60 metres (200 feet) from the ground surface. For deeper wells, one will have to take special permissions, informed GSDA authorities. “And these wells will exclusively serve the drinking water purposes,” the Act mentions.
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