Ghaziabad groundwater depleting fast; companies flouting CGWA rules, says activist

Several top-notch industries that are water-intensive have their bottling and industrial-use plants in Sahibabad and other industrial areas of Ghaziabad where rampant ground water extraction is going on. The CGWA must answer as it has declared Ghaziabad as a notified area, that has witnessed alarming fall in water table

A mega mineral water company like Bisleri and Coca Cola bottling unit like Moon Beverages are situated in Sahibabad Industrial Area of Ghaziabad and are drawing high volumes of groundwater, of course after NOCs were given to them by Central Ground Water Authority or  CGWA, however things might not be rosy for these companies anymore. The CGWA itself has come under tremendous pressure by recent NGT judgments that has asked it to be more stringent in regulating groundwater, especially in areas declared as notified, over exploited and semi-critical for water extraction. Ghaziabad municipal area has been declared a notified area in 1998 which means that water table in Ghaziabad has reached a critical level that needs to be preserved and recharged.

Bisleri International Pvt Ltd had a NOC granted by CGWA for water extraction in Sahibabad Ind. Area that expired on May 18, 2019. Regional Director, CGWA, at Lucknow, YB Kaushik while reluctant to talk about individual NOCs said that a company can apply for NOC before it expires and can maintain continuity in its business of extracting water. He said that in lieu of water extraction companies are required to recharge water and asked this journalist to refer to the CGWA website for more information on that.

Kaushik’s role is to see that NOC conditions are not flouted. He said that he would act tough if he finds that any industry is found violating the conditions in a notified area.

However, noted environment activist Sushil Raghav—who had filed a case in NGT against mindless water extraction in Sahibabad Ind Area refuted Kaushik’s claims and said: “Renewal of NOC is done by CGWA headquarters only after due inspection and process and NOC cannot be granted for a notified area right now.”

Member Secretary, CGWA, Dr.P Nandakumaran, echoing Raghav’s views said: “Once a company’s NOC for groundwater extraction expires it cannot extract anymore. Further, no NOCs are being granted for notified, semi-critical, critical and over exploited areas.” When he was asked what if a company flouts these norms and extracts water even after NOC has expired Nandakumaran said that one can make a complaint to Member Secretary, CGWA or the Chairman regarding such a violation.

Moon Beverages NOC expired in December 2018 that means that it also cannot extract groundwater in Sahibabad area.

This means that these companies cannot get their NOCs renewed as per CGWA guidelines as Sahibabad Industrial Area is a notified area. But Raghav pointed out that throughout Ghaziabad—that is a huge industrial belt—NOCs of several big players in other industrial areas (coming under notified) have expired but there is no one to see if they have stopped groundwater extraction or are drawing water surreptitiously. He lamented that nothing is being done from the administration side also even when the DM is the nodal officer on behalf of CGWA, that can take action against industries violating water extraction norms.

In fact, revised draft guidelines on regulation & management of groundwater are being framed right now by the MoEF after the NGT asked it to so do. These have to be in place by June 30. Sushil Raghav is one of the activists after whose persistent efforts the NGT has asked the ministry to come up with newer set of draft guidelines.

Previously the NGT had dismissed a case of water extraction by Ghaziabad industries after the DM Ghaziabad submitted an affidavit regarding compliance by the industries. The NGT disposed of the case that was reopened again on SC’s order after Raghav approached the Supreme Court against the NGT judgment. Curiously the DM report had also said that the CGWA has not supplied the list of industries complying with NOCs.

Raghav said: “The CGWA in the first place should not have allowed these water intensive industries to set shop in Sahibabad Ind Area bordering Delhi. For one this area is notified now; secondly, there is no proper watchdog to see if the water extraction through borewells is violating the actual allocated volume an industry can draw.” Kaushik himself admitted that due to manpower issues in CGWA, monitoring the industries is a tough affair.

Raghav remarked that Ghaziabad is the first notified area in the country in 1998 but despite this fact the authorities and the CGWA have turned a blind eye towards rampant water extraction in the area. He has drafted a complaint against these water behemoths and had sent it to the CGWA and CPCB and is now awaiting their response.

The Member Secretary of the CGWA further said that only for drinking & domestic purposes and for green belts—that too where municipal supply is unavailable—can the CGWA grant NOC for water extraction in a notified, semi-critical, critical and over exploited area.

Consider this: The Bisleri NOC issued in May 2017 and that expired in May 2019 said that the company cannot extract more than 1,44,000 cu mt/ yr or 14 cr litres a year. “One can only imagine how much water is being guzzled by all industries put together in Ghaziabad despite it being a notified area for water extraction,” pointed out Raghav.

He hoped that after his complaint the CGWA will not only take action against the rampant groundwater extraction but will also tweak its guidelines for water preservation in this area or else he will approach the courts again.

Bisleri International Sahibabad executive told delhincrnews.in ‘volunteer’ reporter that he was not aware if the Bisleri plant’s NOC has expired or not. He asked the news volunteer to contact the production incharge, Sahibabad. However an e-mail query sent to Bisleri by this editor on NOC had not elicited any response so far.

-Prasoon Pant, delhincrnews.in

(E-mail: editordelhincrnews@gmail.com)