New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI) The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to regulate and control ground water extraction in the country is only a new cover provided to the old scheme with minor variations, alterations and modifications, the National Green Tribunal has said.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said the 2020 guidelines broadly do not satisfy directions given by it repeatedly and persistently.
“We do not find much improvement in Guidelines 2020. Virtually, it is only a new cover provided to the old scheme with minor variations, alterations and modifications, here and there, but having no substantial consequences to the root cause and central issue, i.e. protection and preservation of ground water, prevention of, not only further depletion, but a serious and effective attempt for recharge and restoration,” the bench said.
The NGT said there is a twist when the guidelines says that NOC shall not be granted to new packaged water industries in over-exploited areas even if they belong to MSME category.
“In Guidelines 2015, no NOC was to be given to any water intensive industry, even if it is MSME, in over exploited assessment areas. Now it is restricted to packaged water industries. Apparently, a drastic relaxation has been given in respect of water intensive industries, for no reason, and that too in flagrant defiance of order of Tribunal,” it said.
The critical and semi-critical areas have been left untouched and there is no such restriction at all, the tribunal said.
The green panel said unfortunately the ministry concerned and the Central Ground Water Authority have acted in haste and have published Guidelines 2020 wherein most of the infirmities, irregularities, and failures, pointed out on the part of CGWA, in earlier guidelines, as such, are present.
“Though there are minor variations and alterations, but the same are wholly inconsequential, looking to the gravity of the situation, arising due to consistent depletion of ground water.
“The notification issued by UP ground water department shows that in the State of UP almost every district, and some districts as a whole, are in serious stressed condition, having depletion of water to the extent of critical and over-exploited level, and a very few are exceptions,” the bench said.
The NGT said the condition of NCT of Delhi with regard to ground water is already, seriously alarming.
“In this grim situation, continuous laxity on the part of Authorities and CGWA in particular, is a matter of serious concern. We have to opt now for some stringent measures else we also would be failing in our duty of dedicated vigilant to protect environment,” it said.
The tribunal also imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 1.85 crore on Moon Beverages Ltd located at Greater Noida, Rs 13.24 crore on Moon Beverage Ltd’s Sahibabad unit and Rs 9.71 crore on Varun Beverages Ltd’s Greater Noida unit.
The NGT also constituted a joint committee comprising officials from the Environment Ministry, Ministry of Jal Shakti, CGWA, UPGWD and District Magistrates of the districts concerned.
The committee shall prepare restoration plan within two months, execute the same in next six months and submit compliance report to it.
“We also constitute a joint Committee of CPCB, CGWA, UPGWD and UPPCB to conduct survey in UP and prepare data of various categories drawing ground water for commercial purposes, study impact assessment, suggest ways and modes to reduce ground water extraction in OCS areas, and how ground water level can be improved,” it said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Ghaziabad-resident Sushil Bhatt raising the issue of extraction of ground water in an indiscreet and arbitrary manner, even in areas where availability of ground water is in extreme scarcity.
The plea, filed through advocate Rohit Kumar Tuteja, alleged that the units mentioned above have not obtained any ‘No Objection Certificate’ from Central Ground Water Authority for extraction of ground water. PTI PKS SMN SMN
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