Dry spell depletes water in Chhattisgarh

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Wednesday 15 July 2009

Chief minister bans digging of borewells; mines flout the rule

chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh has banned digging of borewells by individual households for a year. This follows a sharp decline in the groundwater levels in the state after last year's drought. Singh announced the decision at a meeting of government departments in Kawardha district.

He asked the officials concerned to take strict action against those violating the ban order. But non-profits working in the region pointed out the ban is not uniform and allows district collectors the discretion to permit borewells. "This will encourage corruption and illegal borewells," said Gautam Bandopadhyay of Nadi Ghati Morcha, based in Raipur. The ban will not be effective unless there is a clear-cut, sectorspecific policy that sets limits on extracting groundwater and specifies the bore size, he added.Activists said that the state is responsible for groundwater depletion.

"Sarguja had the highest water table in the state at one time but now borewells do not yield water because of mining allowed by the state. Farmers and town-dwellers are getting desperate," said Gangaram Palkra of the non-profit Chaupal.

Asked why the ban has not been extended to mining and industrial activities, chief minister's spokesperson, S Das, said such a ban already exists. "Industrial units are allowed to harvest surface water only," he said. Activists said industries openly flout the ban.

The principal secretary of the public health engineering department of Chhattisgarh, Dinesh Srivastav, has however, said the ban is specific to Kawardha. Decisions regarding other districts will be taken only after studying their conditions, he said. But officials in the chief minister's office said the ban extends to the whole state.

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