Water Conservation Fee proposed on groundwater withdrawal

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Nov 2017 09:11:47

By Kartik Lokhande,

In the latest draft guidelines on issuance of ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) for groundwater withdrawal, Central Groundwater Authority (CGWA) has suggested levy of Water Conservation Fee while granting such NOC. CGWA has released the draft guidelines to ensure uniform regulatory framework across the country.

As per the draft guidelines document, each State or Union Territory across the country will have to identify an account in which the proposed Water Conservation Fee will be deposited. The amount so collected will be used by the respective State Governments for implementation of groundwater recharge/conservation/quality remediation measures. The States/Union Territories concerned will be required to frame detailed guidelines for utilisation of the fee so collected, once the CGWA guidelines are notified.

As per the draft guidelines, applicants will have to pay to the State Governments concerned, the Water Conservation Fee based on quantum of groundwater extraction. Government infrastructure projects, Government water supply agencies, and group housing societies/private housing societies with only basic amenities will be exempted from payment of Water Conservation Fee. Infrastructure projects including societies/builder-constructed apartments/townships having recreational facilities like club/gym/commercial places/swimming pool etc will not be exempted from payment of the fee. All other users covered under ‘Infrastructure projects’ category will be required to pay the same at the rate of 30 paise per cubic meter per day.

However, Government mining projects will be exempted from paying the fee. Further, installation of digital water flow meter in the abstraction structure(s) is proposed to be made mandatory and confirmation of the same will have to be given to the designated authorised officer within 90 days of grant of NOC. Monthly water meter reading shall be recorded and annual reports of extraction will have to be submitted to the designated authorised officer.

CGWA has come up with the draft guidelines, as changes were required in the existing ones. “Due to increasing number of litigations in National Green Tribunal, various branches of Tribunal are directing CGWA to ensure that the groundwater withdrawal in the country should be in accordance with law,” states the draft guidelines document.
The major changes in the guidelines include pan-India coverage, decentralisation of NOC issuing authorities based on the quantum of groundwater extraction viz. Revenue heads of the district concerned, State Nodal Agency/State Ground Water Authority and CGWA, dispensing with the provisions relating to submission of artificial recharge proposals and construction of artificial recharge structures by project proponents etc. These have been floated to ensure uniform regulatory framework across the country ‘so that discriminatory practices in regulation are either mitigated or minimised’.

Interestingly, as per the draft guidelines, NOC for groundwater withdrawal will be considered only in cases where the Water Supply Department concerned is unable to supply adequate amount of water in the area. Government water supply agencies also are required to seek NOC from the authorised officers for existing as well as new schemes based on groundwater sources. NOC for new wells shall be
granted only in such cases where public water supply system does not exist or water supply is inadequate.
Besides, priority will be accorded in cases in which groundwater withdrawal is required for drinking or domestic purposes.

Use of fresh groundwater for swimming pool and other water-based recreations will not be permitted in over-exploited and critical areas, if the draft guidelines come into force. The draft guidelines are available on the website of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and in the NOCAP (www.cgwb.gov.in, www.cgwa-noc.gov.in) for the information of the public/stakeholders, State Governments.

Collector to monitor compliance of guidelines District Magistrate/District Collector of each Revenue district in the country will be responsible for monitoring compliance, checking violation, and sealing illegal wells, launching of prosecution against offenders etc including grievance redressal related to groundwater.

In emergent violation cases such as illegal groundwater withdrawal, the officer is proposed to ensure discontinuation of the same by seizure of drilling rig,
sealing of tubewell/borewell and also disconnection of electricity supply to the energised tubewell even if it is through Diesel Generator Sets, state the draft guidelines.