Groundwater: NGT pulls up Delhi govt

NGT Wednesday asked Delhi govt officials to appear before itself over Delhi government report on illegal use of groundwater.

PTI| Updated: Oct 30, 2013, 19:39 PM IST

New Delhi: Displeased with a Delhi government report on illegal use of groundwater, National Green Tribunal Wednesday asked senior officials to appear before itself, along with the secretary of the state environment department, who were all part of an expert panel set up to address the issue.

Criticising the "vague" report filed by the expert committee, a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the secretaries of the Environment and the
Irrigation and Flood Control departments, along with the CEO of Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the Deputy Commissioner of Revenue of South West District and the Chairman of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) to present themselves before itself.

Referring to the report, Justice Kumar said, "I am shocked at the way this committee has worked. We will call the committee. This is the only way to tackle you. This (report) is the vaguest kind of thing."

Denying the request of the counsel for Delhi government to not call the officials, the bench said, "Once we have them here, they would know how to act in the future.

"Let the members of the committee be present before the Tribunal on the next date of hearing," it added.

It also pulled up Delhi government, which had placed the report before it.

"We have no hesitation in noting that this report deserves to be rejected at the very threshold. We did not expect... A report which neither complies with the directions contained in the order dated September 3, 2013, nor deals with the problem of extraction of underground water illegally.

"All that the report says is that a sub-committee has been appointed and various departments will look into various matters and for this four months time has been sought," the bench said.

"We had asked for an interim report which would at least deal with the menace of illegal and unauthorised extraction of underground water and suggest immediate measures required for checking it," it added.

The bench was hearing a plea for ending illegal extraction of groundwater filed by the NGT Bar Association, which was represented by senior advocate Raj Panjwani.

When Panjwani drew the bench`s attention to an order issued by the Delhi Lieutenant Governor in this regard, NGT noted, "it appears no steps have been taken towards that".

The Tribunal had, through its Sept. 3 order, constituted the expert committee and asked it to collate data of all illegal as well as permissible tubewells operating in NCT Delhi.
The committee was at liberty to use students from various law colleges in Delhi to conduct the survey.

The Tribunal had also asked the committee to ensure that cases related to illegal and unauthorised extraction of underground water are prosecuted and water meters are fixed on tubewells for measuring consumption of underground water.