As many as 76 malls across Delhi have been heavily fined for coming up and operating without necessary environmental clearance and damaging the depleting water table.
These malls, including some of the most popular ones in south, west and east Delhi, have been extracting groundwater without the necessary clearance from the Central Groundwater Authority and have been polluting the environment, said the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) while slapping them with fines that went up to crores.
“Malls would have to pay for the environmental damage they cause. Most of them have paid the fines and applied for the necessary clearance... the rest will follow,” said Dr A.K. Ambasht, DPCC member secretary.
An upcoming mall in Vasant Kunj has been fined the highest at Rs 2 crore, while Crossriver Mall in Shahdara was fined Rs 1 crore 47 lakh. The mall’s spokespersons could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
The main reason for penal action was extraction of groundwater without permission. South Delhi and southwest Delhi are
notified areas by the Central Ground Water Board. It means, the state acknowledges that groundwater level at these places are endangered hence in need of special protection. Extraction of groundwater in these areas is a punishable offence. Projects with humungous water needs, like malls, are required to take environmental permission from the state pollution control board and groundwater authority.
“The malls argued that they are not an industry so cannot be governed by pollution control laws. But the amount of water they extract from the ground are on a par with, if not more than, industrial units,” Ambasht added. The DPCC found one establishment extracting as much 170 kili-litre groundwater per day.
Around 16 malls have challenged the decision in court. The next hearing is on March 6.