Realty projects drying up ground beneath us

Numerous small and big real estate projects in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra were over-extracting water from the ground in shallow aquifer zones to construct highrise buildings, especially to dig their basements, the authority has said. Heavy extraction of water from the ground for construction and other commercial uses is also reported from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The latest assessment has emerged after the Central Ground Waster Authority had banned ground water extraction by all private builders in the Noida and Greater Noida areas of UP, in compliance to the directions of the National Green Tribunal.

‘We are receiving several complaints from locals in several cities about de-watering by private builders and infrastructure projects on a large scale leading to a decline in the water tables in these areas and shifting the status of these areas from safe areas to semi-critical and semi-critical to critical and over-exploited,’ said a top scientist of the CGWA, who is part of the assessment committee, on conditions of anonymity.

‘Complaints are also pouring in about the illegal over-extraction of ground water by commercial projects and industries for non-domestic purposes in the critical and over-exploited areas. All guidelines pertaining to the extraction of ground water in different hydrological zones are being extensively flouted. It is a big cause of worry as it is exerting tremendous pressure on the ground water resources,’ the scientist told this correspondent.

Asked what action was being contemplated against the violators, the official said, ‘We are considering writing to all these state governments to direct the concerned administrative heads, entrusted as zonal officers for the purpose, to seal the offending structures and take harsh penal action in provisions with the law. The state governments need to ensure action.’

According to CGWA officials, de-watering and over-extraction of water from the critical and over-exploited zones is a violation of the Environment Protection Act 1986 and Water Act 1974.

Although no-objection certificates are being mandatorily required by any new commercial entity from the area District Magistrates, Commissioners or the head of the municipality, to dig new bore wells or tube wells in notified areas, major violations have been reported from several areas, the ground water authority officials revealed.

As per the 2009 census(latest available with the authority so far), out of 5842 assessment units(blocks, mandals, talukas, dictsicts), the Central Ground Water Board has identified 802 over-exploited units and 169 critical units. The country has 523 semi-critical areas, 4277 safe units and 71 saline zones. The authority has notified 162 areas across the country for control and regulation of ground water. The annual replenishable ground water resources have been estimated as 431 billion cubic centimeters. The net ground water availability is 396 billion cubic centimeters and the overall rate of ground water development (extraction) in the country is 61 percent, according to CGWA estimates.
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