Nearly three weeks before IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal was suspended for her crackdown on the sand mafia, another official had been punished for putting the brakes on the rampant illegal extraction of groundwater by builders in Greater Noida.
Greater Noida city magistrate Pushpraj Singh was transferred to Bulandshahr, allegedly after he took on the influential realtors.
Over a hundred realtors active in Gautam Budh Nagar district pump out over a crore litres of water every day despite an express ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on using groundwater for construction activities.
Apart from this, a single realtor drains out nearly 2.5 crore litres of water while constructing a basement for a multi-storey building.
“Since Pushpraj Singh directed several builders to enforce the NGT order, realtors were upset. Under pressure from the strong builders’ lobby, the UP government punished Singh and transferred him to Bulandshahr district. He was working to save water and taking action against builders wasting groundwater,” said a district administration official, requesting anonymity.
Singh sealed a construction site on June 10 on the Yamuna Expressway for violating the NGT order. Then on June 17, he took action against another prominent builder in Greater Noida. On June 19, he again censured a Noida-based prominent realtor for letting go groundwater down the drains in violation of the green tribunal’s order, said a local environmentalist.
“During the inspection on June 19, the prominent realtor’s employees had threatened Singh of getting him transferred. Within two weeks of the threat, Singh was transferred,” said the official. The realtor also lodged a complaint at Sector 39 police station against an environmentalist, who had filed a petition before the NGT to save groundwater.
“A realtor extracts and throws away 2.5 crore liters of water in a day for de-watering to lay a building’s foundation. Nobody bothers to follow the ban by the NGT,” said Vikrant Tongad a local environmentalist.
Besides realtors, illegal water packaging companies are also extracting groundwater, claim environmentalists. As per submission of a water packaging company to NGT, it extracts about 55,000 liters of groundwater in a day.
“On an average, 100 companies in the district extract one crore litres of water. For a litre of mineral water, they waste 5 litres of drinking water,” said Tongad.
“Many Delhi-based water mafia are active in Gautam Budh Nagar district. They extract water here and sell it in Delhi to meet the packaged water demand,” said an official of the Noida authority.