Groundwater Usage in Guwahati Continues to be Unregulated
Rampant extraction of underground water in Guwahati is adding to the city’s water woes as extraction of underground water remains unregulated by the authorities.
Even as the state government had made it mandatory in 2018 for individuals to obtain permission from the Guwahati Jal Board to undertake deep water boring, it is currently not being implemented, informed authorities. This leads to rampant unregulated extraction of underground water in the city which in turn results in depletion of the groundwater level.
In order to check exploitation of underground water, the Assam government had made it compulsory for commercial establishments, individuals, builders as well as flat owners to take permission from government authorities before extracting ground water.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had previously directed the Guwahati Development Department (GDD) to make the necessary amendments in the provisions of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Act in order to make it mandatory for residents to take permission before undertaking deep water boring in the city.
The CM had also expressed his concern over the depleting groundwater level due to boring installed in residential areas.
G Plus spoke to Guwahati Jal Board- the authority responsible for regulating and giving permission for water boring. However, the Jal Board officials said that currently people do not take permission before conducting boring.
“There is a mandate to take permission because people are indiscriminately digging borewells but we cannot do anything as of now because the government is not being able to supply water to every household presently. Once the state government is able to provide water to every household, then we can maybe enforce the rule,” Rupjyoti Talukdar, executive engineer at Guwahati Jal Board told G Plus.
Apart from unregulated deep water boring in several residential localities, underground water is also sold illegally in Guwahati in the absence of any stringent checks on the same.
Small tempos carrying water are a common sight in some of the localities in the city including Chatribari, Fancy Bazar, Athgaon, Hatigaon, Christian Basti and Kahilipara among others. These sellers charge arbitrarily from the residents who are forced to buy water for their everyday needs in the wake of water scarcity in their localities.
Sources claim that these sellers undertake deep water boring and extract water for commercial use without any licence or permission. “We have no other option but to purchase water from these water sellers who operate in our locality for our everyday use. The situation becomes worse during the summer months,” said a resident of Hatigaon.
Authorities deny having powers to take action
When asked about the illegal sale of water in Guwahati, Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) authorities informed G Plus that they do not have any powers to take action against such people.
“It is true that currently people are extracting groundwater indiscriminately, but we do not really have any power to take action against such individuals,” said G L Meena, regional director of the northeast region at the Central Ground Water Board.
However, he added that there is an existing policy for regulation wherein those involved in industry, infrastructure and mining projects, have to take permission from the CGWB for extraction of underground water as per the central government directives. Meena added that in such circumstances too, they can give the permission only if the individuals apply.
Further, CGWB director said, “Firstly, we do not have the mechanism to take any action directly against individuals who undertake boring without obtaining permission. Secondly, we do not even have extra manpower to do so.”
He additionally mentioned that the deputy commissioner (DC) has the power and has been authorised to take action against such people.
“In such matters, the DC can take suo moto cognisance of the case and if such a case comes to our notice, we can send a report to the DC for further action,” informed Meena.
On the other hand, DC Kamrup (Metro) Biswajit Pegu said that the district administration does not issue permission for boring.
“The agency which gives permission is supposed to take action too,” said Pegu.
Further, CGWB authorities informed that Guwahati as well as Assam comes under the ‘safe’ category with regard to groundwater depletion. However, they said that measures need to be taken to conserve ground water and prevent its depletion.
As per a report of the CGWB published in 2013, the groundwater resources in greater Kamrup – Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup (Rural) districts – was under ‘safe’ category. The annual dynamic groundwater resources as in 2009 were estimated to be 1,847.29 million cubic metres while the net annual ground water consumption is 715.97 million cubic metres of which, 43 per cent is renewed every year. But when the rise in water consumption concentrated in the urban areas is considered, the scenario is worrisome, say experts.
Further, the Assam government is undertaking four ambitious water supply projects for Guwahati and the implementation work for all the four projects is ongoing simultaneously in the city with the objective to provide uninterrupted 24X7 water supply to residents.
However, all four projects have missed their deadlines numerous times and have faced delays due to several reasons prompting residents to indiscriminately extract groundwater in Guwahati.