Shut units illegally drawing groundwater within 20 days: Madras high court

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CITYShut units illegally drawing groundwater within 20 days: Madras high court
TNN | Updated: Feb 9, 2020, 10:48 IST


Madras high court

CHENNAI: Giving a 20-day ultimatum for officials to shut down water units illegally drawing groundwater without valid licence, the Madras high court said in case of failure, officials concerned would be required to deposit ‘substantial amounts’ from their personal resources.

A division bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and R Sureshkumar, making it clear that it intended to fix personal responsibility on district collectors and PWD chief engineers concerned, pointed out a large number of illegal water purifying units were operating in Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts.

Relying on data submitted by special government pleader in court, the bench said while 111 water units functioned in Tiruvallur, there were 110 units in Kancheepuram. About 40 units in the districts have not renewed liecences, the bench said, “The district collectors concerned will take action against the respondent-units as well as all other such units which do not possess valid licence…Our order dated January 9, 2020 made it clear that the respondents shall take steps for immediately closing down the water purifying units which do not have valid license to draw underground water. If any non-compliance is brought to our notice on the next date of hearing the said officials will remain present in the court, without fail.”
The bench was passing orders on a PIL filed by MV Sivamuthu of Neat India Organization seeking action against such industries that exploit groundwater without appropriate licence under the Chennai Metropolitan Ground Water Regulation Act, 1987. On Friday, when the case came up for hearing, S Prabakaran, PWD chief engineer, S Raja, deputy director, state ground & surface water resource data centre, and P Subramanian, hydrogeologist, Metrowater, were present in court, as directed by the bench earlier.

In their status report to the bench, the officials said as per the assessment of the groundwater reserve made in 2017, out of the total 1,166 firkas in the state, 462 firkas lie in over-exploited zones, 79 in critical zones, 163 lie in semi-critical zone, 427 in safe zone and 35 in saline/poor quality zone. Special government pleader J Pothiraj, representing the government, submitted that excluding Chennai, which came under CMDA, the districts had 567 water purifying units with no-objection certificates (NOCs), whereas 261 units either do not have any NOCs or their NOCs have not been renewed by competent authorities.
The bench, which posted the case to February 26, for further hearing, has already asked the government to furnish its policy decision on the matter, besides the cap on the number of
water purifying units depending upon the availability of ground water in the state.
“If no such policy decision has been already taken by the state government, such a decision deserves to be taken by them taking into account the scarcity of water resources in the state. Competent authorities may take such a policy decision and produce it before this court on the next date of hearing,” the bench said.

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