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NGT recommends no general permission for groundwater withdrawal without environment impact assessment

ANI | Updated: Jul 20, 2020 20:44 IST

New Delhi [India], July 20 (ANI): The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday recommended that there must be no general permission for withdrawal of groundwater, particularly to any commercial entity, without an environment impact assessment of such activity.
"There must be no general permission for withdrawal of groundwater, particularly to any commercial entity, without an environment impact assessment of such activity on individual assessment units in cumulative terms covering carrying capacity aspects by an expert committee," an NGT bench headed by its chairperson AK Goel said.
The tribunal also expressed unhappiness with the Central Ground Water Board's (CGWB) submission that the restriction on the extraction of groundwater in overexploited, and critical and semi-critical areas are likely to have an adverse impact on industrial production, employment opportunities and GDP of some states.
Withdrawal of groundwater should be permitted as per Water Management Plans to be prepared in terms of this order based on mapping of individual assessment units, suggested the bench.
"Any permission should be for specified times and a specified quantity of water, not in perpetuity, and be necessarily subject to digital flow meters which cannot be accessed by proponents, with mandatory annual calibration by an authorised agency at proponents' cost," the NGT bench said.
"An annual review by independent and expert evaluation must audit and record groundwater levels as well as compliance with the conditions of the permission. Such audits must be published online for transparency and to track compliance and year-on-year change in groundwater levels. Swift action should be taken against those who fail the audit, including withdrawal of permission, blacklisting, initiation of prosecution and recovery of deterrent compensation as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) regime. Records must be maintained online and for a sufficient and reasonable time," the tribunal observed.

The NGT ordered that all overexploited, critical and semi-critical (OCS) assessment units must undergo water mapping. Water Management Plans need to be prepared for all OCS assessment units in the country based on the mapping data, starting with overexploited blocks, the bench said.
"The Water Management Plans, data on water availability or scarcity and policy of CGWA must be uploaded on its website for transparency and public involvement. Such exercise may be done expeditiously, preferably within the next three months," the NGT said while asking the government to file an action taken report.
The NGT said that the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) may ensure requisite manning and effective functioning of Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), so as to ensure sustainable groundwater management in terms of the Supreme Court mandate by which CGWA was created.
The NGT also asked CGWA and MoJS to comply with the directions of this tribunal in orders dated January 3, 2019, May 7, 2019, and September 11, 2019, to have a meaningful regulatory regime and institutional mechanisms for ensuring prevention of depletion and unauthorised extraction of groundwater and sustainable management of groundwater in OCS areas.
"Regard must be had to water availability and safe levels to which its withdrawal can be allowed, especially for commercial purposes, based on available and assessed data in each assessment unit," the bench said.
The bench listed the matter for February 11, 2021.
The bench order came while hearing a plea filed by one Shailesh Singh seeking direction to check the depleting groundwater level in the country. (ANI)