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No ground water extraction without impact assessment: NGT

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New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday directed that no general permission should be given for withdrawal of ground water, particularly to a commercial entity, without an environmental impact assessment.

A bench, headed by Chairperson, Justice A.K. Goel, issued a slew of directions, one of them being: “There must be no general permission for withdrawal of groundwater, particularly to any commercial entity, without environment impact assessment of such activity on individual assessment units in cumulative terms covering carrying capacity aspects by an expert committee.”

The order came on a plea seeking direction to check depleting groundwater level in the country. The bench listed the matter for February 11, 2021.

The green tribunal stated that permission for extraction should be for specified times and for specified quantities of water and not in perpetuity. Such permission should as per Water Management Plans to be prepared, based on mapping of individual assessment units, it added.

The bench, also comprising Justice S.P. Wangdi, Expert Members Dr. Satyawan Singh Garbyal, and Dr. Nagin Nanda further directed: “An annual review by independent and expert evaluation must audit and record ground water 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 ground water levels, the NGT said, adding that swift action will be taken against those who fail the audit, including withdrawal of permission, blacklisting, initiation of prosecution and recovery of deterrent compensation.

The Ministry of Jal Shakti has also been directed to ensure requisite manning and effective functioning of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) so as to ensure sustainable groundwater management in terms of the Supreme Court mandate by which the CGWA was created.

The ministry and the CGWA have also been asked to comply with the directions of Tribunal to have a meaningful regulatory regime and institutional mechanisms for ensuring prevention of depletion and unauthorized extraction of ground water and sustainable management of groundwater in over-exploited, critical and semi-critical (OCS) areas.

“Regard must be had to water availability and safe levels to which its withdrawal can be allowed, especially for commercial purposes. Procedures for assessment of individual applications and institutional mechanisms may be clearly laid down,” the green tribunal added.

“As per orders dated 3.1.2019, undertake an impact study in light of projected data for the next 50 years (in phased manner with action plan decade-wise).”

The bench gave directions to do water mapping of all OCS assessment units. “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 Water Management Plans, data on water availability or scarcity and policy of the CGWA must be uploaded on its website for transparency and public involvement in next three months, it said.



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