The CGWA in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has on 24-09-20,notified the guidelines to regulate and control ground water abstraction in the Country.These guidelineshave a PAN India applicability but regulation by the CGWA is only provided to continue in those States which are not themselves regulating ground water abstraction.NOC will be granted by the CGWA or where there is a State Mechanism, by the State Authority as applicable. In case of any inconsistencies in State and CGWA guidelines, the guidelines of the CGWA will prevail over the State Guidelines. The State can however prescribe stricter provisions. Because of conflicting and ambiguous provisions, the understanding of these two directives is difficult and the user is in a dilemma.
The CGWA guideline makes the State Authority as above, responsible for grant of NOC in States, where constituted, but the Uttar Pradesh Ground Water (Management and Regulation) Act, 2019 does not prescribe this as part of the duties of the ‘State Ground Water Management and Regulatory Authority’ but prescribes it for the District Ground Water Management Council. The State Authority therefore is not duly empowered to issue NOC’s in U.P.
NOC applications, Pan Indiacan be considered by CGWA for areas other than overexploited areas, whereas the State of Uttar Pradesh (and maybe some others as per their respective provisions) which has its own mechanism will not consider such applications for critical and stressed urban areas also. With two regimes in place,the procedures for NOC to existing industries in critical and stressed urban areas is not clearly understood.
The State Act provides that persons desirous of sinking a well for the purpose of abstraction of ground water for commercial, industrial, infrastructural or bulk use in the non-notified area shall apply to the respective District Ground Water Management Council for No-Objection Certificate for this purpose. It is also provided that the pre-existing user of ground water shall apply for the issue of authorisation certificate. There is thus no provision for NOC to be granted by the State Government in notified areas which includes overexploited, critical and stressed urban areas. With two regimes in place, the Industry is not sure as to who will renew the NOC for existing units in notified areas and what will be the procedure. Will it be the State or the CGWA.
Expansion of existing industries involving increase in quantum of ground water abstraction in over exploited areas shall not be permitted as per the new guidelines. Since the CGWA guidelines are provided to prevail, the States will have to comply with this in these clearances. The State Rules are not representative of this condition because it is opening up new applications in notified areas also through the application form.
As per the CGWA guidelines an Impact Assessment report prepared by accredited consultants needs to be submitted for the impacts on ground water regime and socio-economic impacts. There is no clarity on who will accredit the Consultants.
District Collectors/Deputy Commissioners/District Magistrates have been authorized under the CGWA guidelines 2020, to take enforcement actions including sealing, disconnection of electricity, launching of prosecution, Environment Compensation and Penalties. Monitoring and periodic inspections have been delegated to the CGWB/CGWA and State Ground Water Authorities. The State Act however, prescribes thatOffences under this Act shall be cognizable and triable by a judicial magistrate of first class and the magistrate may take cognizance of the offence on a complaint filed by the District Ground Water Management Council or by any aggrieved person provided that before initiating the prosecution, the aggrieved person shall give one month’s notice to the District Ground Water Management Council intimating her or his intention to initiate prosecution. There appears to be a need for more uniformity and clarity on this issue.
The new guidelines provide that If the CGWA/Respective State/UT is unable to process a renewal application in time, No objection Certificate shall be deemed to be extended till the date of renewal of No objection certificate. There is no provision of NOC to new/ existing Industrial users in notified areas in the U.P. State regulation but there is a process of registration. With the State Regulation in place, the CGWA may not consider applications for NOC in States if the State Regulation is in place. With States like Uttar Pradesh not having a provision of NOC in notified areas in their Legislation, there needs to be more clarity on this issue of deemed extension. It may need to be clarified as to where will an existing user if located in a notified area, make an application for renewal of NOC or for an initial NOC in case of earlier default (not possessing a valid NOC).
Existing users whose applications are pending consideration at the CGWA may also need to be explained as to the fate of their applications because of the State mechanism in place.
A lot of clarity is required on these issues which particularly relate to existing units abstracting water from over exploited and other notified areasto ensure that development does not suffer merely because of a lack of understanding of the regulatory provisions.
With the operation of two different regimes and the differences in the provisions a lot of issues have emerged which are being difficult to be understood by industry and may need to be explained in detail. The UPSMA has taken this initiative of inviting Mr. Durjoy Chakraborty, ground water expert of great repute and a former Chief Scientist at the CGWA. Together with Mr. Deepak Guptara, Secretary General, UPSMA and Dr. Yashpal Singh, Chairman, The Wealthy Waste School India, Senior Advisor, UPSMA and a former Director, Environment to the Government of U.P. it is planned to decipher these two pieces of legislation and try to answer confusing questions arising out of the operation of two different regimes. This Conversation, in Camera is presented the benefit of the Industry, Planners and regulators.