NGT brings strict conditions for commercial use of ground water
National Green Tribunal has specifically banned the general permission for the withdrawal of groundwater, especially to the commercial entities without an environment impact assessment.
The National Green Tribunal has decided to set stricter conditions for the commercial use of groundwater. NGT has asked the authorities to be close-fisted in granting permits, initiating harsh actions in case of breaches, and mandating the third-party compliance audit of businesses every year.
The tribunal has also struck down the Central Ground Water Authority’s (CGWA) 2020 guidelines, stating that they were against the law. Earlier, the 2018 version of the guidelines had also been struck down by the NGT.
As per an industry executive, the latest move by NGT has put on hold about 20,000 applications for no-objection certificates (NOCs) from the industry on the groundwater use.
NGT’s new conditions: Key Highlights
• As per the NGT direction, industries must expect a complete overhaul in the manner in which the permits are issued for the extraction of groundwater for commercial activities. They must ensure that all the conditions are complied with.
• The tribunal has specifically banned the general permission for the withdrawal of groundwater, especially to the commercial entities without an environment impact assessment.
• Permits must be for the specified quantity of water and must be monitored with digital flow metres and audited every year by the third parties.
• Strict actions, including prosecution and blacklisting, must be taken against those who will fail the audit.
• As per the new rules, the authorities are given three months to make water management plans for all the overexploited, semi-critical, and critical areas.
• Around 8,00,000 companies are falling under such areas, which have been accounting for about one-third of all 3,881 groundwater assessment units in India.
New conditions bring trouble for commercial units:
As per some of the experts, the directions issued by the tribunal has put rigorous requirements on the businesses at a time when they have been trying to find their way amid COVID-19. The restrictions make access of groundwater very difficult. The move by NGT has also been interfering with the legislative functions of the Jal Shakti Ministry.
Earlier, the tribunal was also not able to find merit in Central Ground Water Authority’s (CGWA) plea that the curbs on groundwater use will have an impact on the employment opportunities, industrial production, and the economy of some states.
According to the industry executive, the policy vacuum on granting permits to use groundwater has been causing hardship to the industry which has been resulting in closer and loss of livelihoods and jobs.
As per the official estimates, 89% of the groundwater withdrawal is being done by farmers and only 5% is by the industry while the rest of it is for domestic use.