Expert panel report on de-watering for real estate projects in Noida upsets green activists
A report filed by the Noida authority before the National Green Tribunal on de-watering or pumping out groundwater for starting development projects has drawn flak from environmentalists. The report, prepared by an expert committee appointed by the authority on the direction of the Supreme Court, favours construction firms big time, they allege.
The report specifically refers to the residential-cum-commercial project, Supertech Supernova, spread over 1.5 million sq metre area in Sector 94 of Noida, could continue de-watering since it is located very close to the Yamuna where water seepage rate is very high. Though the report recommends implementation of a de-watering management plan (DMP), it also creates an impression that de-watering is essential to continue construction projects and groundwater lost because of Supernova project can easily be replenished, alleges Vikrant Tongad, the complainant before NGT.
The five-member expert committee comprised three senior officials of Noida authority and two retired officials of Central Ground Water Board and Uttar Pradesh Groundwater Department. The expert committee recommended that water pumped out from real estate projects should be used for agriculture purposes or artificial recharge of ground water.
Earlier this year, NGT had imposed an interim ban on de-watering by real estate firms after Tongad, a Noida-based environmentalist, filed a complaint seeking en end to the practice of de-watering in order to conserve groundwater.
What happens to NGT ban?
The ban had affected several ongoing projects in Noida. Tongad says that Supernova wrote a letter to the Noida authority in August this year complaining about the seepage of water at the excavated sites, which was obstructing work. The Noida authority filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking permission to remove water accumulated at the excavated sites because of seepage. The Supreme Court admitted the plea and gave an order allowing removal of seepage water. The apex court, however, directed that NGT's interim ban on de-watering should be followed and asked Noida authority officials to form an expert committee to look into the issue of de-watering for real estate projects in Noida.
“However, the real estate firms in Noida are now resorting to de-watering under the pretext of removing seeped water,” alleges Akash Vashist, another environment activist.
Tongad says the Supreme Court had sought a comprehensive study on de-watering by real estate projects and had not named any specific project for review. “Perhaps, Noida authority took Supernova's example to show how great the problem of seepage could be. Supernova is close to river bed and so the problem persists there. But what about large projects that are 10 km away from river and still de-watering?” asks Tongad. He contended that if an area is excavated to the depth of 15 metre instead of 5 metre, there is bound to be seepage.
Tongad says the report gives an impression that de-watering is essential, while adding he would be filing his objections before NGT in a week's time.
As part of DMP, the expert panel has recommended geo-technical investigations and hydrological analysis of project sites prior to commencement of construction to determine soil status and characteristics and exact positions of groundwater level. “De-watering can be done after purification to designated discharge points, which may be sewers, streams, infiltration or recharge ponds or injection well recharge system,” the expert committee has recommended.
P S Datta, former principal scientist (hydrology) of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), dispels the impression the expert committee has given in its report. He says that water table has been declining in Noida at the rate of 20-70 cm a year. The natural system of recharge of groundwater is filtration and percolation of rainfall, and at some places seepage from surface water sources to adjacent aquifers in the vicinity, depending on hydraulic gradient.
Order of the National Green Tribunal on indiscriminate extraction of underground water in Noida, Uttar Pradesh dated 22/08/2013
Order of the National Green Tribunal on flood plain area declared by the authorities and whether any construction was permitted