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Groundwater level depleting steeply in western UP districts, activists to move court

noida Updated: Apr 22, 2016 01:29 IST
Hindustan Times
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The groundwater situation has reached alarming levels due to over-extraction, according to officials. (Sakib Ali/HT Photo)

Peeyush Khandelwal

Groundwater level in several districts of western Uttar Pradesh has been declining constantly over the past decade. Figures obtained from the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) through an RTI reply filed by an activist show a decline in Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Baghpat and Meerut districts.

In Ghaziabad’s Razapur block, water level went from 16.95 metres below ground level (mbgl) in January 2006 to 20.21 mbgl in January 2010. The RTI replies did not provide data for the remaining areas in the district. According to Ghaziabad municipal corporation officials, the current average water level in the city is estimated at around 140 feet (nearly 42.672 metres) and levels are going down by five feet (nearly 1.524 metres) annually.

“The situation has reached alarming levels. There is hardly any recharge while water extraction is rampant. We cannot regulate it (water extraction) since we do not have by-laws through which we can act. Staff shortage, even for maintenance, is also a major issue,” said RK Yadav, the corporation’s executive engineer, water works.

The RTI reply’s figures for groundwater levels monitored at Sector 62A in Bisrakh block of Gautam Budh Nagar too show a decline from 18.69 mbgl in January 2012 to 27.18 mbgl in January 2015. The same location saw a decline from 13 mbgl in November 2008 to 29.05 mbgl in November 2015.

“Growing urbanisation is heavily taxing groundwater resources in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar. Water bodies have become extinct and groundwater recharge is slow. We have moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and are trying to save our water bodies and wetlands etc,” said Vikrant Tongad, an environmental activist from Gautam Budh Nagar.

Elsewhere in western UP, Baghpat saw a marginal decline from 13.4 mbgl in January 2006 to 14.65 mbgl in January 2009. The site at Meerut also revealed a decline from 12.23 mbgl in January 2006 to 17.5 mbgl in January 2014.

Environment activist Akash Vashistha, who filed the RTI, said he was provided random data readings for the four districts instead of uniform ones.

“There is mass violation of water extraction activities by developers, water mafia and even residents. Officials too show a lacklustre attitude towards water conservation issues. Water recharging pits and rainwater harvesting units are lying defunct at most places, but are shown functioning on papers. We are going to file a petition in the NGT over the issue. Otherwise, our areas will face a similar crisis as Maharashtra,” he said.

When contacted, CGWB regional director YB Kaushik refused to provide the latest data and said that more RTIs should be filed if proper data is required.

“The existing tubewells and pumps are drawing massive amounts of water and new pumps are also set up, which is a further drain on water resources. Enforcement (of extraction) is entrusted to district collectors, we cannot do so,” he added.