In a recent order passed by the National Green Tribunal, Dr. Justice Jawed Rahim (Judicial Member) and Mr. Bikram Singh Sajwan (Expert Member) on February 15, 2017 ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (hereinafter referred to as “CPCB”), State Pollution Control Board (hereinafter referred to as “SPCB”) and Central Ground Water Authority (hereinafter referred to as “CGWA”) to conduct a Joint Inspection and ordered the Beltek Canadian Water Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the “Respondent”) to deposit a fine of INR 10 lakhs for extracting ground water without permission.

The CGWA has provided guidelines[1] for evaluation of proposals/requests for the withdrawal of ground water. The guidelines focus on a specific part of ground water management viz. ensuring sustainability of ground water usage, both in terms of quantity & quality, and also focus on land based management of ground water resources. The guidelines have been developed taking into account the variations of availability of water in different climatic regions and diverse hydrogeological conditions in various states of the country.

Companies exploiting Ground water have to take into account the following guidelines as notified by the Central Ground Water Authority-

Notified Area

These are areas notified by Central Ground Water Authority for the purpose of Regulation of Ground Water development through Public Notices. There are so far 162 areas which have been notified for the purpose of regulation of ground water development. In these areas permission to abstract ground water through any energized means will not be accorded for any purpose other than for extraction of drinking water. The permission would be granted by the Authorized Officer in consultation with the advisory committee constituted for this purpose.

Infrastructure projects are required to take No Objection Certificate (NOC) for construction of ground water abstraction structures/replacement of existing defunct well for drinking and domestic purpose only. This permission is to be granted in areas where a public water supply system does not exist.

Not Notified Areas

Industries/Infrastructure/Mining Projects

NOC for ground water withdrawal will be considered for Industries /Infrastructure / Mining projects as per the criteria given below.

Category

Withdrawal permitted (% of proposed recharge)

Safe

NOC is required for ground water withdrawal subject to adoption of artificial recharge to ground water.

Semi critical

Withdrawal may be permitted subject to undertaking of ground water recharge measures. The withdrawal should not exceed 200% of the recharged quantity.

Critical

Withdrawal may be permitted subject to undertaking of ground water recharge measures. The withdrawal should not exceed 100% of the recharged quantity.

Over-exploited

Withdrawal may be permitted subject to undertaking of ground water recharge measures. The withdrawal should not exceed 50% of the recharged quantity

Water Intensive Industries

Industries using ground water as raw material or water intensive industries shall not be granted NOC for ground water withdrawal in Over-Exploited areas. Safe, Semi-Critical & Critical areas NOC for ground water withdrawal is mandatory for these industries. However, ground water withdrawal will be limited as follows:

Category

Withdrawal permitted (% of proposed recharge)

Safe

Withdrawal limited to 200% of ground water recharge.

Semi- Critical

Withdrawal limited to 100% of ground water recharge.

Critical

Withdrawal limited to 50% of ground water recharge.

Over- Exploited

No permission for Industries under this category.

Infrastructure Projects

  1. The quantum of ground water for usage other than drinking or domestic shall not exceed 25% of total ground water abstraction in case of Housing projects or Residential Townships.
  2. Proponents are required to submit a status report stating the quantum of water required and the quantity that would be provided by the Government Water Supplying agency. This should be supported by a letter from the agency.

The complete Guidelines/Criteria for evaluation of proposals/requests for ground water abstraction are available here.

Facts of the Case

Shailesh Singh, a well-known Environmental Activist (hereinafter referred to as the “Applicant”) through application to the National Green Tribunal alleged that the Respondent has been operating a water bottle unit (hereinafter referred to as the “said unit”) which was extracting ground water through bore well installed in the factory premises without the permission of the CGWA and has been discharging untreated effluents into the river. The Inspection Report submitted by CGWA to the Tribunal stated that the said unit had been flouting and extracting water without installation of meter to the respective bore wells.

Applicants Submission:

  1. The Applicant contended that that the Respondent has been utilizing the ground water and exploited it for its commercial benefit since 2009 and the said unit has been discharging untreated effluent contents into the river causing adverse impact on environment.

Respondent’s Submission:

  1. The Respondent contended that the said the unit was not actually collecting the water,  processing it and bottling it but was selling it after having it packaged.
  2. The Respondent denied the Inspection Report of the CGWA and submitted that one bore well was no longer in use and was shut down while another bore well was kept on standby.
  3. The Respondent further contended that they had complied with all the observations in the Inspection report of the SPCB, installed meters to all the bore wells and rectified the deficiencies pointed in the Report.
  4. The Respondent submitted that the said unit was a small unit and had very limited financial resources. It was argued that restraining or shutting down the said unit would be harsh and severe to the interest of the Respondent.

Decision of the Tribunal:

The Tribunal issued the following orders-

  1. CPCB, SPCB and CGWA were directed to conduct a Joint Inspection, record the extent of utilization of ground water through bore wells which were installed in the said unit and file their report within a period of 2 weeks from this order.
  2. Cost of the inspection was to be borne by the Respondent.
  3. The Respondent was directed to deposit a sum of10 lakh INR within one week of this order with the CGWA, subject to determination of the amount of environmental compensation, if any on final adjudication. The said amount was deposited by the Respondent on February 21, 2017

The Tribunal permitted the Respondent to use one bore well out of three bore wells and the remaining two bore wells were ordered to be sealed as no permission for their use had been granted by CGWA.