As The Freshwater Is Depleting, Can India Ignore Groundwater Regulation?
By Nemi Bhavsar
Aquifer depletion is a largely invisible threat, but that does not make it any less real with over 18 percent of the world's population, but the country still has only four per cent of the world's freshwater resources. Can we think of neglecting it? Don't we need to regulate it to preserve and not to pollute it?
After having independence for more than 7 decades, India still doesn't have any proper law for maintaining groundwater neither for preserving it nor to prevent harming it.If we focus on the seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution, water as a subject belongs to the states which makes it their responsibility to manage and regulate it. But under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Central Groundwater Authority can issue guidelines to states and has the responsibility to keep a check on groundwater level by conducting surveys across the nation.
The broader classification of this situation in our nation is:
There was no Bill prepared for groundwater legislation
where there was a Bill but, it hasn't yet been converted to an Act
where a Bill has been passed to form an Act but, without any rules to implement it
where there was an Act with rules
In 1970, Model Bill was framed by the Ministry of Water Resources. It included some guidelines for states to use and develop their own specific groundwater acts, which was later updated in 1992,1996,and 2005. In 2017, there was another bill framed keeping in mind the decentralization of groundwater regulation, i.e., Model Groundwater (Sustainable Management) Bill. Now, there are states and few UTs which enacted their own legislation namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry and West Bengal, but that was also mostly drafted around the earlier Model Bills.
There's a case law on groundwater regulation, i.e., M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (Groundwater Case),1997 led by the bench of K Ramaswamy and S S Ahmad, which ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forest to constitute the Central Groundwater Board as an Authority under Section 3(3) of the Act. The Authority so constituted shall exercise all the powers under the Act necessary for the purpose of regulation and control of groundwater management and development. The Central Government shall confer on the Authority the power to give directions under Section 5 of the Act and also powers to take such measures or pass any orders in respect of all the matters referred to in Section 3(2) of the Act.Even after, India has many legislations and agencies dealing with groundwater resources, yet the enforcement of such becomes a problem in our country due to inefficiency of public officials and corruption. India still needs to make one proper central legislation for the problem we are there with and our generation will face it too if we will not open our eyes now.