Diminishing effect

By M Suchitra
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Kerala to amend groundwater act

KERALA is planning to amend legislation to check extraction of its overexploited groundwater.

Five of the 50 blocks in the state are over-extracted, 15 critical and 30 semi-critical, according to a 2004 survey by the Central Ground Water Board and the state ground water department.

A sub-committee of the state Ground Water Authority, which reviewed the Kerala Groundwater (Control & Regulation) Act, 2002, submitted its report on October 16. The government is expected to issue an ordinance soon in this regard.

The committee has recommended redefining the term "user" to incorporate industrial and commercial houses that extract, use or sell groundwater; mandatory registration of all types of wells fitted with pumps; and banning transport of groundwater without the permission of the authority.

The amendment bill drafted by the committee empowers the Ground Water Authority to levy cess on the owner or user of pumping wells who extracts or sells groundwater for industrial, commercial or entertainment purposes. Activists prefer punishing taxation.

Kerala had enacted the 2002 Act after intense and prolonged lobbying by environmentalists and activists, especially the anti-Coca Cola agitation groups in Plachimada of Palakkad district. The Act allows landowners to extract unlimited quantity of water. It did not even prioritize the use of groundwater, said R Ajayan of the Plachimada Struggle Solidarity Committee.

The amendments do not address all lacunas. There is no proposal to prioritize groundwater use. The bill deals with the procedural details of well registration and licensing but does not effectively address pollution and overexploitation by industry, according to Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, a member of an informal civil committee formed to look into the Act. "The committee has come up with flimsy suggestions," he said.

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