Groundwater guzzling industries could spell doom for Ghaziabad

Despite being a severely over-exploited and notified area industrial plants are still being allowed to extract high volumes of water in Sahibabad, Meerut Road, GT Road and other industrial areas of Ghaziabad, just for profiteering. Corporate Social Responsibility seems to be absent and CGWA itself admits the situation is alarming


Industrial activity in Ghaziabad is putting a severe strain on groundwater resource in the district and Ghaziabad is under siege primarily due to 2 reasons: groundwater table has reached a critical level (groundwater depletion in Ghaziabad is at the rate of 92 cms a year as per a 2013 report of UP Laghu Sinchai Vibhag) and secondly, the high volumes of pollution, especially PM 2.5 (often recorded as highest in country) has put at risk the health of lakhs of residents.

Several reputable industries such as Dabur, Bisleri, Moon, Tata Steel (earlier Bhushan Steel), Magnum Paper among others are operational in Ghaziabad; however these are depleting the groundwater resources of this district without fail and authorities have turned a blind eye to this destruction of resource despite Ghaziabad municipal area falling into category of a ‘notified’ over exploited zone as designated by Central Ground Water Authority or CGWA. In a notified area NOCs can only be given for drinking & domestic purposes and that too when the municipal or govt. water supply is unavailable.

CGWA has failed to explain how it has already given so many NOCs in Ghaziabad area when they themselves have not permitted this. A letter written to CGWA Member Secretary on why and how NOCs have been given to water guzzling industries in Ghaziabad area has evoked no response.

Perhaps the officials do not want to appear anti-industry. But why should an industry—however big it should be allowed to function if it disturbs the ecological balance with disastrous consequences for a particular region merits an answer, that should be given by a central agency like the CGWA as well as state government.

Only recently, Ghaziabad based environmentalist Sushil Raghav had complained to Central Ground Water Authority against two reputed companies namely Bisleri and Moon Beverages—operating their plants in Sahibabad area.

In response the CGWA directed the Regional Director, Northern Region at Lucknow to look into the complaint. The DM Ghaziabad was also urged to look into the complaint and take appropriate action. According to Raghav, Bisleri International plant at Sahibabad had earlier been handed a show cause notice for violating groundwater extraction guidelines, however authorities have turned a blind eye towards that.

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CGWA administrator VV Vardhan said that when Ghaziabad was notified far back in 1998 it was a semi-critical area but due to repeated groundwater abstraction by the industries it has become an over-exploited area. He admitted that steps should be taken to regulate the groundwater extraction but stressed that proper regulatory framework has to be there to curb this.

Vardhan also admitted that although NOC to industry is only given for drinking & domestic purposes for their premises any violation of this is tough to monitor. He also added that it is mandatory for the industry to install peizometers and water meters to measure water extraction.

Meanwhile, as Uttar Pradesh contemplates draft groundwater guidelines/bill CGWA will have no power to intervene in acting against water violations. Environmentalist Akash Vashishtha said that CGWA should not have given NOCs when Ghaziabad is staring at a groundwater catastrophe. “How could water-intensive industries be allowed to profit when the future of the region itself is at stake,” he asked and added that a complete ban on groundwater abstraction for industrial and domestic activity be done in Ghaziabad.

To put a lid on mindless depletion of groundwater in Ghaziabad, Akash Vashishtha and Sushil Raghav had a few years’ back filed case at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) after which borewells were directed to be sealed in Ghaziabad and Hapur districts, however the NGT had recently directed the Government to draft fresh guidelines for water extraction. Earlier, the NGT had come down hard on CGWA in doling out NOCs to the industry freely.

Lack of groundwater data or assessment survey is another issue plaguing the regulatory agencies and the government. According to Vardhan the assessment survey of 2017 conducted by CGWA scientists had still not seen the light of the day as it is still to be ratified. In such as scenario, real-time data available from boring agencies like municipal corporation has shown water table in residential areas of Ghaziabad falling to 180-200 ft that should be a cause of alarm.

By Prasoon Pant,