Illegal groundwater extraction: HSPCB recommends ₹4.13 cr penalty for Panipat sugar mill
Already facing the ire of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for violation of environmental norms, the cooperative sugar mill at Panipat is in for more trouble as the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) has recommended a penalty of ₹4.13 crore on it for illegal extraction of groundwater.
A complaint in this regard had been moved to the NGT by a local councillor last year following which the Tribunal had formed a joint committee under HSPCB to look into the matter.
After ground inspections, the HSPCB, in its report, stated that the sugar mill was located in an “over-exploited area” but it had been extracting groundwater, using a borewell, to meet its raw water requirements. This was done without the permission of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), and hence illegal. The illegal extraction had taken place from April 15, 2015 to December 12, 2020.
When contacted, Pradeep Ahlawat, the managing director of the sugarmill, refused to comment on the matter, stating that he “was busy in a meeting”.
As per the NGT, the HSPCB regional officer had written thrice to the Panipat deputy commissioner for levying environmental compensation on the government-operated sugarmill.
HSPCB member secretary S Narayanan said the penalty for illegal extraction of water is to be imposed by the CGWA or the deputy commissioner concerned.
He said the HSPCB has calculated and recommended the environmental compensation based on the formula derived by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and sent it to the deputy commissioner for imposition.
The committee has submitted its report to the NGT and matter is likely to come up for hearing next week.
In August last year, taking a serious note of environmental violations by the mill, the NGT had ordered the closure of sugar and distillery units at Panipat Cooperative Sugarmill until remedial measures are taken. “The norms under the Water Act, Air Act and the Environment Protection Act are also not being followed, which amounts to criminal offences. Groundwater is being illegally extracted which may seriously and irreversibly affect the environment,” the NGT order read.