Illegal extraction of groundwater a criminal offence: NGT

New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal Friday expressed concern over the repeated allegations of 'tankers mafias' in the city engaged in the extraction of groundwater without any remedial action by the authorities.

The tribunal observed that illegal extraction of groundwater is a criminal offence and directed the authorities to devise effective mechanism for preventing its withdrawal through unauthorised tubewells.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed that a suitable mechanism for preventing extraction of ground water by illegal tubewells needs to be devised and wherever such illegalities found, prompt coercive measures must be taken.  'Illegal extraction of ground water is a criminal offence under the Environment Protection Act. Compensation must be recovered on the formula already laid down. It will be appropriate that Chief Secretary, Delhi calls a meeting of all concerned within one month from today and oversees preparation of an appropriate SOP for fixing responsibility on the subject,' the bench said.

The Ministry of Jal Shakti may also take necessary steps in the matter, the bench said.

The tribunal had earlier constituted an independent Monitoring Committee, headed by former Delhi high court judge, Justice S P Garg, to look into the issue.

The Committee had found that 14,231 borewells were illegally operating in Delhi and 15 per cent of the groundwater had reached below 40 meters.

'Depleting of groundwater was also affecting the flow the river Yamuna, the committee said and suggested that subsidy in the form of free water was being misused and to avoid payment of water charges for more than 20,000 litres free water, groundwater was being freely extracted without any remedial action by the authorities.  The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by city resident Rakesh Kumar alleging that water filling plants were being operated without license and supplying contaminated water to the residents at Kashmere Gate here. PTI PKS RKS RKS RKS