In a landmark development in the history of groundwater preservation in the country, wastage and misuse of potable water or groundwater will, henceforth, be a punishable offence, with the Central Ground Water Authority issuing a notification directing civic bodies to evolve a compliance mechanism with coercive measures for violations.
The notification issued by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act came in pursuance to the directions passed by the National Green Tribunal on October 15, 2019 in the Rajendra Tyagi vs Union of India case, in which the petitioner had sought to make water wastage and misuse a punishable offence in the country.
The notification by the authority, which comes under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, stated, "The civic bodies dealing with water supply in all states and UTs, whether it is the Jal Board, Jal Nigam, Water Works Department, Municipal Corporation, Municipal Council, Development Authority or Panchayat, shall be duty-bound to ensure that there is no waste or misuse of potable water tapped from underground and evolve a compliance mechanism with coercive measures for violations."
The notification, issued on October 8, further stated that no person in the country shall waste or misuse potable water resources tapped from underground.
Advocate Akash Vashishtha, who had represented Rajendra Tyagi in the green tribunal, told IANS, "Wastage and misuse of potable water and groundwater will, henceforth, be a punishable offence in India."
He added, "Failure to comply with the notification will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh, or with both. In case the failure or contravention continues, an additional fine can be slapped, which may extend to Rs 5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention, under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986."
"Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act deals with the penalty in case of contravention or if anyone fails to comply with any orders or directions issued under the act. We had sought from the NGT to ask the government to issue directions under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act so that any violation of contravention or directions thereof is punishable under Section 15," Vashishtha added.