The Central Groundwater Authority (CGWA) has relaxed significantly the norms for extracting groundwater in areas where the water table has been declared "endangered" for years.
The move comes as a blow to Delhi's fast depleting water table.
As per the new guidelines, all one needs to extract unlimited groundwater is to just "intimate" the district Deputy Commissioner 10 days in advance. But the Deputy Commissioner has no powers either to scrutinise the application or refuse permission.
The guidelines have done away with the earlier stance, according to which extraction of groundwater in "notified zones" was an offence.
Notified zones are areas where groundwater reserves are endangered because of overexploitation. South and Southwest districts of Delhi are two of the 46 zones across the country notified by the CGWA.
Sources said applicants were flooding local DC offices in South and Southwest districts. Around 200 tube-wells had already been installed across the two districts in the past month.
Studies by the Central Groundwater Board in recent years show that the water table in South Delhi has been depleting by 1 metre or more per year and with increasing depth, the saline, calcium and iron content in the water has also gone up.
"Unfortunately, the DC is almost a keeper of records about who has dug tubewells in the district," said a senior official not wanting to be named. "We have sought clarification on this issue from the CGWA," he said.
Fearing that rampant extraction of groundwater will make their areas more parched, residents of Vasant Vihar and Shanti Niketan on Thursday met Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna. "We cannot let our tubewells dry up. We want a rollback of these rules," said Air Marshal D.S. Sabhkhini.
"The builder lobby will misuse this rule. Tubewell contractors are telling rich clients that now they can install tubewells without hassles," said Jyoti Sharma of FORCE, an NGO working with residents on this.
CGWA chairman B.M. Jha said the guidelines had bee formed keeping in mind the water needs of the people.