NEW DELHI: Wastage and misuse of potable water / groundwater will henceforth, be a punishable offence in India.
In an important, landmark development in the history of groundwater preservation in the country, the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has issued a new directive under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, after being so directed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) making misuse of groundwater an offence in India, with violations punishable with up to five years in jail or up to Rs 1 lakh fine.
The National Green Tribunal issued this notification after hearing a petition by Rajendra Tyagi and the NGO FRIENDS and represented by their counsel Akash Vashishtha, seeking to make water wastage and misuse a punishable offence in the country.
As per the notification, the civic bodies dealing with water supply in all states and Union Territories shall be duty-bound to ensure that there is no waste or misuse of potable water tapped from underground and evolve a compliance mechanism, with coercive measures for violations.
The notification by the authority, which comes under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, stated, "The civic bodies dealing with water supply in all States and Union Territories whether it is Jal Board, Jal Nigam, Water Works Department, Municipal Corporation, Municipal Council, Development Authority or Panchayat, shall be duty bound to ensure that there is no waste or misuse of potable water tapped from underground and evolve a compliance mechanism with conceive measures for violations.
According to the plea, "Running water during a 3-5 minute regular brushing activity wastes around 25 litres of water. A 15-20 minute showering wastes around 50 litres of water when a person applies soap or shampoo. In dish washing, people have a tendency to keep the water running because of which around 20-60 litres of water from a single household is wasted.
Deep borewells installed by inhabitants in rural areas which already have hand-pumps and tubewells for drinking and domestic purposes have also emerged a big mode of water wastage/misuse.
"Other major causes of wastage/misuse of fresh water are washing cars with high pressure water pumps both in households as well as service stations, incessant floor washing, swimming pools in cities and towns, using old and outdated washing machines and dishwashers," said the plea, filed through advocate Akash Vashishtha.
"As many as 162 blocks in the country have been notified by the Central Ground Water Authority for regulation of groundwater extraction and many more are in the process of being notified. The Composite Water Management Index report prepared by the Niti Ayog has clearly cautioned that 21 cities in India will run out of groundwater as soon as by 2020, affecting 100 million people," it said.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the response filed both by the Ministry of Jal Shakti as well as the Delhi Jal Board does not show clear enforceable policy to check such misuse and wastage.
The CGWB also mentioned the NGT directive issued in October 2019 which said that in order to control wastage of water, there has to be specific time-bound action plan and monitoring which should include coercive measures for enforcement.
"The affidavit is vague and general. It is stated that letters have been written to the states. This step by itself can hardly be enough to discharge the public trust reposed in the Ministry of Jal Shakti," the bench said.
from writing a letter, there has to be specific time-bound action plans and
monitoring which should include coercive measures for enforcement," the
apex court added.
It is pertinent to mention here that failure to comply with this Notification, in each such incident of failure or contravention, be punishable with imprisonment for a tem which may extent do five years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both, and in case the failure or contravention continues, with additional fine, which may extend to five thousand rupees for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention, under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.