MUMBAI: In a move to curb illegal extraction of groundwater through borewells and tankers, the Central Groundwater Board (CGWA) has issued a public notice directing the townships, commercial and industrial users of groundwater (extracting through water pumps) to pay Rs 1 lakh as late fees for not seeking its NOC for such use before the given deadline that expired on September 24, 2020.
Since early this year, the CGWA has already made mandatory the installation of telemetric or digital flow meters on the motor pumps installed on groundwater wells. The move is aimed at tightening its regulatory grip over the illegal water tanker suppliers who are using the groundwater stock for commercial use without any regulatory control.
The recent surveys have pointed out that Mumbai’s groundwater stock inside the aquifers is diminishing and moreover, getting replaced by saltwater due to over-exploitation of sweet water through tubes or borewells.
This situation may eventually affect the trees which survive on groundwater.
Reports have also pointed out the lack of groundwater recharge mechanism as a larger portion of soil is covered with concrete or asphalt. Neither residential nor commercial townships are incorporating the recharging systems.
This late fee is to be paid besides the groundwater abstraction or restoration charges that they have to pay as applicable for various categories of users mandated by CGWA, the notice said. However, they are being exempted from paying environmental compensation till March 30, 2022, the notice pointed out.
But, if they again fail to apply for NOC even by the set deadline of March 2022, then they will be liable for not only a strong legal action but also hefty environmental compensation, the notice stated further.
CGWA has also appealed to those whose NOC applications have been rejected earlier, to resubmit them so as to reconsider for further processing. All the applications are being processed through CGWA’s online portal.
It may be mentioned here that Mumbai Police has registered the first and major groundwater theft worth around Rs 80 crore. BMC has already forced the accused in the case to close the wells while the national green tribunal is yet to decide on environmental compensation to be recovered from the accused.
Upon several follow-ups with the CGWA and groundwater authorities in the state, the RTI activist and crusader against illegal use of groundwater, Sureshkumar Dhoka, said the CGWA has made the NOC and later installation of digital flow meters on the water pumps (to be used for extraction of groundwater from wells) as mandatory inside townships, commercial and industrial premises. According to him, this will not be mandatory for those who have an individual house and well on a piece of land owned by them.
Dhoka said the townships or commercial, industrial or small or micro-enterprises that are using more than 10 cubic meters of water per day from the wells are supposed to install the meters as mandated by the CGWA. The permissions such as NOC to draw groundwater and installations of meters are to be routed through either CGWA or the local authorities.
“However, strangely despite collectors in Mumbai being authorised to oversee the NOC, metering and environmental damage compensation in case of any illegal extraction under the central environmental protection Act 1958, there is no implementation on it from them on such cases. As a result, there is no control on extraction by illegal tankers that are allegedly operating hand in gloves with the local authorities. Thousands of crores of revenue is being wasted. The state water regulatory authority also needs to be empowered but that too has not been done leading to culprits still indulging in thefts,” he pointed out.