Coming down hard on Noida Golf Course (NGC) for illegal abstraction of groundwater in an Over-exploited, Critical and Semi-Critical or OCS area like Gautam Budh Nagar, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slapped a penalty of Rs 25 lakh, that is interim in nature and that has to be deposited by the NGC in a month’s time with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The NGT was hearing a petition by Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist, based in Gautam Budh Nagar, who had raised the issue of illegal extraction of groundwater by the NGC and has made numerous complaints in this regard to the CGWA and the DM of Noida. However, when no action was forthcoming Tongad approached the Tribunal.
The NGT noted, “This Tribunal has already held vide detailed order dated 11.9.2019
in O.A. No. 176/2015, Shailesh Singh v. Hotel Holiday Regency, Moradabad & Ors. that no ground water can be extracted in over-exploited, critical and semi-critical area (which covers NOIDA) for commercial purpose. It has also been directed in O.A. No. 148/2016, Mahesh Chandra Saxena v. SDMC & Ors. that for horticulture purposes the STP treated water should be utilized. In O.A. No. 134/2015, Friends through its General Secretary Vs. Ministry of Water Resources, this Tribunal has held that ground water cannot be used for playground like cricket ground particularly in over-exploited, critical and semi-critical area, which observation also applies to Golf Course. In view of depleting groundwater, there is threat of irreversible damage to the aquifers and salinity of the water. Moreover, it is leading to scarcity of drinking water, thereby depriving a section of the society from access to potable water which is already scarce. The rain water harvesting systems have to be regularly maintained as per norms.”
Earlier, an inspection was carried out of the NGC on orders of the NGT by a committee comprising CPCB, UPPCB, district administration among others. The committee submitted the facts, wherein it came to light that in Noida Golf Course, Sector-43, Noida there are 5 tube wells installed out of which two tube wells had been dismantled and abandoned while out of the remaining three tube wells, two tube wells were operational and one was under maintenance. The report also said that water meters were not installed on the tube wells and log book was also not being maintained for operation of tube wells as mandated by the Central Ground Water Authority or CGWA guidelines.
The NGC was also running the tubewells without a valid NOC for which the CGWA had also issued a show-cause notice, the NGT noted.
The green court imposed a similar fine—of Rs 25 lakh—on Advant Navis Business Park that was also found to be illegally extracting groundwater without an NOC, in a separate petition.
It may be recalled here that Noida and Greater Noida fall under the OCS or Over-exploited, Critical and Semi-Critical categorization of the CGWA (2017 assessment of blocks/units) where extraction of groundwater is banned for commercial purposes.
The petitioner, Vikrant Tongad said that the NGT had also asked IIT Delhi and CPCB to be part of the committee that will conduct a water audit that to ascertain the extent of use and replenishment of ground water in the last three years. The committee may also look into the water quality aspects of the rain water harvesting systems and suggest remedial measures as may be found necessary, the NGT said. The case will be heard further on November 6.
–By Prasoon Pant