High Court order fails to wean Gurgaon off illegal wells
ACTING on complaints of severe water shortage in Gurgaon, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on May 20 asked the Central Ground Water Authority, or CGWA, to provide the details of groundwater levels in the fast-expanding industrial and financial hub. It set August 5 as the deadline.
In February, the court had ordered the city’s authorities to restrict the use of groundwater, depleting at three times the recharge potential, to drinking and domestic purposes. It also ordered sealing of borewells used by builders and industrial units, and installation of water meters at all wells to monitor groundwater extraction.
The court’s order was in response to two public interest petitions. The petition filed in 2008 by Sunil Singh, a lawyer, alleged that real estate giant DLF was illegally operating 28 wells to service its commercial office hub, Cyber City. The other petitioner, Qutub Enclave Residents Welfare Association of DLF, urged the court in 2009 to check rampant extraction of groundwater for 265 construction projects across the city. It also sought adequate supply from the piped water network to their area.
City magistrate K K Gupta says officials have sealed 172 illegal borewells since the order in February. But the petitioners say groundwater extraction for construction and industries continues unabated in connivance with the authorities. Very few are abiding by the directions (see ‘Switch to sewage’). The residents’ welfare association plans to file a contempt petition against the city authorities.
City in a fix
Gurgaon was completely dependent on groundwater until 1995 when the city authorities built a 69 km channel to bring water from the Western Yamuna Canal, an irrigation source for Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Known as the Gurgaon Water Supply Canal, it carries 3.3 cubic metres per second (cumecs) of water at the head at Kakori near Sonipat district. By the time it reaches Gurgaon, 2.2 cumecs of water flows in the canal. The rest is lost through evaporation and diversion to villages and a township en route, says Ajay Garg, superintending engineer of the irrigation department.
The canal meets just 30 per cent of the city’s water needs, according to R S Rathee, president of the residents’ welfare association.
Since the city started expanding in the 1980s, Gurgaon’s water table fell by over a metre each year, says Rathee. In 2000, it was 40 metres below the ground level in low-lying areas. The alarming decline prompted CGWA in December that year to order the city authorities to register all wells and ban new wells without approval. But lax implementation of the order means the city has more wells than what the registration list shows.
Some people, who do not have wells, also approached CGWA for registration. The authority did not inspect the sites prior to validation. Builders say the premium on a plot with registered well is Rs 2 lakh.
CGWA blames it on staff-shortage. In March 2009 it authorised the deputy commissioner of Gurgaon to grant permissions for new borewells. When contacted officials said they are yet to compile a registry.
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