National Green Tribunal Questions Center's Role Green Groundwater Initiative

The National Green Tribunal has rapped the Centre over inadequate measures to prevent wastage and misuse of groundwater saying there has to be specific time bound action plans and monitoring.

November 04, 2020

The National Green Tribunal has rapped the Centre over inadequate measures to prevent wastage and misuse of groundwater saying there has to be specific time bound action plans and monitoring.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the response filed both by the Ministry of Jal Shakti as well as Delhi Jal Board does not show clear enforceable policy to check such misuse and wastage. 

“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. 

"Apart from writing a letter, there has to be specific time bound action plans and monitoring which should include coercive measures for enforcement,” the bench said.

The NGT said the affidavit filed by the DJB is wholly inadequate to address the problem. 

"A very meagre amount is said to have been recovered in spite of the acknowledged problem of wastage of potable water. The environment law is not complied by recovery of some token amount from the violators. 

"Overriding environmental law principle of 'Polluter Pays' must be invoked by all the regulators to ensure that wastage of water is not profitable and cost of such wastage is recovered which is necessary for restoration of the environment without merely limiting to statutory changes which are no substitute to 'Polluter Pays' principle," the bench said.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Rajendra Tyagi, a BJP councillor from Ghaziabad and an NGO, Friends, alleging that steps are not being taken to prevent the misuse of water.

The wastage of water is taking place in many ways such as overflowing of overhead tanks in residential and commercial areas, the plea said.

According to the applicants, 4,84,20,000 cubic metres of water is wasted every single day and around 163 million population of the country is facing deprivation of fresh, drinkable water at the hands of few others who are almost habitual of wasting and misusing precious fresh potable water.

"Around 600 million people are facing extreme water stress in the country. Millions of litres of fresh potable water are being wasted in absence of appropriate regulations or action-plans to curb the same. Flushing systems are also a major cause of fresh potable water wastage in households and commercial complexes, wasting around 15-16 litres of water in a single flush," the plea said.

Referring to a study, it said that one out of three people in India tend to waste water by keeping the water running from faucets that discharge as much as five litres in a minute while a regular shower flows out 10 litres of water per minute.

"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," said the plea.

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, it said.

"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.

The demand for water is expected to grow from 40 billion cubic metres currently to around 220 billion cubic metres in 2025.

Water wastage has assumed alarming proportions even as the situation is worsening day by day and needs to be arrested for the future generations, the plea said.

"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.