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Politicians wash hands of groundwater Bill

The Bill to bring in place checks on the exploitation of the city's groundwater is once again stymied.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2006 08:58 IST

The Bill to bring in place checks on the exploitation of the city's groundwater was once again stymied as a divided Delhi Jal Board (DJB) failed to pass the amended draft at its board meeting on Monday.

The draft Bill, which proposes to levy user charges on the extraction of groundwater and make it mandatory to seek permission before installing tube wells, was rejected by the political members of the board who are opposed to these provisions.

The stormy board meeting lasted for around two hours during which the political members refused to give their permission to the Delhi Water Board (Amendment) Bill, 2005. The DJB has five political members on its board besides other officials.

The draft Bill has to be cleared by DJB before it can be sent to the Cabinet for approval. Subsequently, it has to be passed by the Assembly to become an Act.

DJB Chief Executive Officer Arun Mathur said that the members of the board want some more time to study the provisions.

Emphasising the importance of the Bill, Mathur said that of the 9 districts in Delhi, 7 have overexploited groundwater to such an extent that it cannot be replenished. The Bill, he said, also makes rainwater harvesting mandatory for commercial, industrial and business establishments along with big hospitals.

The Bill has run into a series of troubles ever since it was first introduced by the state government in the Assembly in September last year. Political opposition from both within the party and outside forced the government to refer the Bill to the Select Committee of the House. The Select Committee soon gave its verdict: "The Bill is not acceptable to them in the present form."

"The abrasive and draconian-looking provisions have been omitted from the draft Bill. Now the Bill stipulates that notice will be served before entering any premises," Mathur said. But board members want the draft to be diluted further.

Member of DJB Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, who voiced his opposition to the draft Bill in the board meeting, said all the members would give their inputs to the DJB CEO in the next few days. "It will be taken up for discussion only when the inputs of all the members are incorporated in the draft," he said.

Asked about the provisions of the draft Bill to which the members are opposed, he did not specify. "The entire draft has to be looked afresh," he said.