NGT slams authorities for lack of coordination, seeks further reports about illegal borewells in Delhi

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up authorities, including the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), for “lack of coordination” in preventing illegal extraction of groundwater for commercial purposes.

The NGT was hearing a petition, according to which unauthorised operators, such as the “tanker mafia”, illegally extract groundwater through borewells, which is then filtered through reverse osmosis (RO) plants and used for commercial purposes.

These illegal operators in the national capital do not possess a no-objection certificate (NOC) issued by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), the petition has said.

In an order passed in July, the tribunal had directed the authorities concerned to take “prompt coercive action” and immediately seal the illegal borewells, besides “developing an effective mechanism for preventing extraction of groundwater by unauthorised operators and the tanker mafia”.

A bench of judicial member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert member Afroz Ahamd, in a recent order, noted that in pursuance of the tribunal’s earlier order, reports were filed by the DPCC, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Mehrauli and district magistrate (DM) of South Delhi.

“Reports filed by the authorities concerned show a complete lack of coordination between them,” the bench said.

It took note of the DM’s report, according to which an assessment of the compensation for environmental violations has been pending with the DPCC for “a very long period”.

According to the DPCC’s report, it does not have the requisite information about the owner of a plot that has an illegal borewell. The particulars are also not available with the SDM, the bench pointed out.

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Slamming their conduct, it said, “The authorities concerned, which are under a statutory and constitutional obligation to protect and improve the environment, cannot be allowed to neglect or delay taking appropriate remedial action for protection and improvement of environment on such frivolous grounds or lame excuses and are accordingly directed to resolve all such bottlenecks in the implementation of the statutory provisions or environmental norms by seeking the relevant information from the authorities concerned and also avoiding unnecessary delay in taking such action.”

The green panel directed the authorities to file additional action-taken reports within three months.

The matter has been listed on February 7, 2024 for further proceedings.

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