UP draws up rules to regulate groundwater usage, fixes fines for violations
The Uttar Pradesh cabinet has approved the UP Groundwater (Management and Regulation) Rules – 2020, to protect and regulate the usage of groundwater after the water table dipped to alarming levels in the state, which currently has 82 overexploited, 47 critical and 151 semi-critical blocks.
The rules provide for formation of different regulatory mechanisms at the state, district, block/village and municipal level. According to officials of the UP groundwater department, the rules have been formed after the government notified the UP Groundwater (Management & Regulation) Act, 2019, which came into force on October 2, 2019.
“Earlier, there was no mechanism whereby we could impose fines, levy penalties or crack down on illegal extraction of groundwater. As a result, over a period of time, four blocks in Ghaziabad have gone into the overexploited category while one block is in the semi-critical category. The Gautam Budh Nagar district has four blocks, of which two are overexploited while one each is in the critical and semi-critical categories,” Rahul Sharma, in-charge of UP groundwater department (Noida region), said.
“The water level in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar is declining at the annual rate of estimated one to 1.5 metres. The depletion of water level, however, depends on different conditions in different areas,” he said.
The rules approved by the UP cabinet on Tuesday also provide for the levy of penalty and punishment for overuse of groundwater resources. Under the rules, different areas will be categorised as notified and non-notified and all groundwater users will have to register with the respective authorities.
The rules also provide for capping the groundwater usage by commercial, industrial, infrastructure and bulk users and stipulate a fee on usage.
In case of any violation, users will be penalised with fines ranging from ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh and/or imprisonment ranging from six months to a year, for a first offence. However, agricultural and general residential users do not come under the ambit of penalty clauses.
“A second offence would entail an imprisonment of two to five years, along with a penalty of ₹5 lakh to ₹10 lakh. A provision for imprisonment of five to seven years along with penalty of ₹10 lakh to ₹20 lakh has been made for those caught polluting/exploiting groundwater a third time,” the official said.
“With the Act and the rules in place, there will be better regulation and management of groundwater resources. We have already formed the district council in Gautam Budh Nagar, which is headed by the district magistrate. Likewise, all districts will form district councils and thereafter, the other lower level councils will be formed,” Sharma said.
According to the UP groundwater department statistics, the two development blocks of Bisrakh (149.19% groundwater usage) and Jewar (108.81%) in Gautam Budh Nagar are already in the overexploited category. The Dadri block (84.50%) is semi-critical while the Dankaur block (99.84%) is in the critical category.
Similarly, four development blocks of Bhojpur (140.89% groundwater usage), Loni (132.92%), Razapur (110.24%) and Ghaziabad city (263.35%) are in the overexploited category while only one block, Muradnagar (88.23%), is in the semi-critical category.
“The condition of groundwater in both districts is alarming and there has been heavy and unchecked usage of groundwater over a period of time. Groundwater extraction has been exploited by bottling companies that are flourishing in small localities of Khoda, Vijay Nagar and Sahibabad. There is absolutely no check on groundwater usage. Apart from that, the rainfall over the years has also decreased, thereby making it difficult for groundwater recharge,” Akash Vashishtha, a city based environmentalist and lawyer, said.