Bihar, UP move to check misuse of groundwater

By R K Srinivasan
Published: Monday 15 January 2007

the Bihar Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Legislation, 2006, has been recently approved by the state assembly during its winter session. Another water-endowed state, Uttar Pradesh, is expected to follow. It has prepared a bill on the same lines. They also plan to ban boring without permission in regions where there has been a rapid depletion in the groundwater table.

Under the provisions of the Bihar act, a groundwater authority under a senior officer will regulate exploitation of groundwater resources, while the Central Ground Water Authority (cgwa) will help the state government in identifying overexploited areas and create 'Notified Areas' to enable monitoring. Those seeking to extract groundwater mechanically will have to seek permission from the authority. However, those sinking hand-operated pumps are exempted.

In Uttar Pradesh, R S Sinha, hydrogeologist, Ground Water Department, Lucknow, says that they have identified critical blocks and prepared a five-year master plan for artificial recharge. Sinha says in urban areas, all housing colonies that are spread over 20 acres (8 hectares) will have to leave aside 5 per cent of the total land for groundwater recharging.

These initiatives have been taken on the basis of a model bill of groundwater that the Union ministry of water resources (mowr) has been pushing the states to enact since 1970, without success only seven states complied with it before Bihar and up. In that year, the Groundwater (Control & Regulation) Act, 1970, was circulated to all states and union territories. It was revised in 1996 and the small and marginal farmers were taken out of its purview. Provision was made so that they did not have to inform authorities to sink a well in their holdings. Another revision in 2005 brought about the Model Bill to Regulate & Control the Development & Management of Groundwater. A chapter on rainwater harvesting was also added.

The main thrust of all the model bills was constitution of state ground water authority (sgwa), which would identify overexploited areas and notify them. On the basis of the draft bill, existing borewell owners in notified areas will be required to get themselves registered with sgwas. For installing tubewells in such areas, a permit would be required and penalties could also be imposed for failure to comply with the provisions of the act.

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