High Court seeks report on groundwater extraction in Gurugram
Noting that the conservation of groundwater in Gurugram district was an important issue, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in an order dated April 9, directed the district authorities to file a fresh status report on the matter within four weeks. The court gave the directive with reference to a 2008 public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Sunil Singh against the Ministry of Environment and Forests and others on illegal extraction of groundwater through bore-wells.
“Allegations are that on account of illegally dug bore-wells and use of underground water, groundwater level has gone dangerously low. The day is not far when there would no water available. After hearing the learned counsel for the petitioner and also going through records, we feel a fresh status report is required from every stakeholder,” the court order read.
The directive came after court’s orders to the district administration fell on deaf ears over the years.
In 2010, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had asked the Gurugram district administration to ensure that water from registered bore-wells is only used for agricultural purposes, and not for construction. In another order in 2011, the court had asked authorities to submit a report on the number of domestic connections released by the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran, then HUDA; the volume of water needed for construction in the district and the source from where the water was being taken.
In July 2012, the court even observed no such data was provided by authorities and “nothing was being done to check illegal groundwater extraction”.
RS Rathee, president of Qutub Enclave RWA, who is a co-petitioner, said, “We had submitted a list of builders and had named around 262 real estate projects which were using groundwater for construction. The city has been facing a severe water crisis and the groundwater level has gone down drastically,” he said.
While officials of HSVP did not respond to repeated calls and text message for a comment on the matter, deputy commissioner Amit Khatri said, “We are assessing the situation in the district and will be filing a report shortly.”
A spokesperson from the regional office of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change accepted that the situation pertaining to depleting ground water was serious. “We want the high court to give an order on the issue, soon,” the spokesperson said.
According to data obtained from the agricultural department’s groundwater cell, from 2014 to 2018, the groundwater table fell by 2.5 metres in Gurugram district and by 3 metres in Gurugram city. The department of agriculture also found that in 2018, the district overdrew on its groundwater reserves by 226%. Gurugram city alone overdrew its supply by 308%. In 2013, the Central GroundWater Board (CGWB) had categorised the district as ‘over-exploited’.
The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for May 9.