Expressing concern over depleting groundwater levels, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has set up a committee to formulate steps required to prevent its unauthorised extraction. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the committee to evolve a robust mechanism to ensure that groundwater is not illegally extracted and to monitor manning and functioning of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).
The committee comprises joint Secretaries of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Central Ground Water Board, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, National Remote Sensing Centre and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
"The nodal agency will be the Joint Secretary, MoWR for coordination and compliance. The Committee may look into the reports already submitted. The report may be furnished within two months by e-mail," the tribunal said.
The CPCB report stating that water intensive industries can be allowed even in semi-critical and critical areas without any further safeguards may not be acted upon till further orders, it said.
The green panel was hearing a plea filed by a city resident, Shailesh Singh, through advocates Preeti Singh and Sunklan Porwal, seeking action against depleting groundwater levels in the country and prevention of its illegal extraction.
"The report of CPCB with regard to compensation is accepted by way of an interim arrangement and the same may be acted upon by the regulatory authorities and compensation recovered from the violators, for the period of violation, which may be assessed on case to case basis," the NGT said.
The tribunal said despite a Supreme Court order in 1996 with regard to groundwater extraction, the water level has only gone down.
In its order, the apex court had directed the central government to constitute a body to look into the issue of groundwater depletion.
"Unfortunately, in spite of clear directions of the Supreme Court, the CGWA is not willing to take the ownership of the subject and repeatedly takes the plea that it does not have the infrastructure or that the responsibility of dealing with the problem is of the States and not that of the said authority," the NGT said.
"It is high time that the working of the CGWA is reviewed and remedial measures are taken, including assessment of suitability of the person to head it," it said.