Only 19 states have legislation for management of ground water: CAG

New Delhi: Only 19 states/UTs have enacted legislation for management of ground water and among them, the legislation was only partially implemented in four states while in six other states, its enactment was pending for various reasons, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report released on Tuesday said.

“The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had in 2005 circulated a Model Bill to all the states/UTs for regulation and development of ground water and to enable the states to enact Ground Water Legislation,” the report on “Ground Water Management and Regulation: Union Government, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation” tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday said.

The report contains the observations of the Performance Audit of Ground Water Management and Regulation for the period 2013-18. Matters relating to the period subsequent to 2017-18 have also been included, wherever necessary.

Apart from the 19 states mentioned above – as of December 2019 – the remaining states/UTs had not taken action to enact legislation for ground water. “The lack of clear guidelines from the Department impacted the legislations implemented by the States,” the report said.

However, the Model Bill was under review (December 2019) as per the suggestions of NITI Aayog.

Water being a state subject, the legislation for regulation and development of ground water is to be enacted by the state governments/UTs. However, the regulation of ground water utilisation is done both at the Central and state levels. At the apex level, the Department of Water Resources is allocated with overall planning and policy making for the development of ground water resources and establishment of utilisable resources.

In pursuance of the Supreme Court’s 1996 order, the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) was constituted in January 1997 for the purpose of regulation and control of ground water management and development and to issue necessary directions for this purpose. In 13 states/UTs (as of March 2019), the regulation of ground water is done by the states themselves through State Ground Water Authority or Government orders.

Among other significant findings by the CAG, the report said, no action was taken on four out of 12 recommendations made in December 2012 by an Expert Group constituted for benchmarking of various activities of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) with international best practices, on capacity building in it.

The CAG report also said that deficiencies were observed in schemes of some states, such as delay in completion of schemes, ground water level data not analysed before recommending proposals for construction of tube wells (Bihar), delay in finalisation of project on Ground Water Recharge action plan (Delhi), shortfall in the activities of State Ground Water Conservation Mission, lag in achievement of targets for implementing the use of sprinkle irrigation (Uttar Pradesh), etc.

Among the recommendations, it said, the Department may take expeditious action to revise the Model Bill and also pursue with the remaining states for bringing comprehensive laws/regulations to deal with ground water management.

The other recommendations included: Central Ground Water Authority and State agencies need to enforce penal provisions strictly as per the Environment Protection Act/state acts/rules against the cases of violation of conditions mentioned in the ‘No Objection Certificates’ for effective ground water regulation.

The Central Ground Water Board may take appropriate action to ensure that recommendations of the report of the Expert Group for augmenting its infrastructure, technological upgradation and for capacity building are implemented within a reasonable time frame, it said.

It also said that the Central department may impress upon the state governments to review the performance of their ground water schemes and take measures to ensure that the envisaged results are achieved by adopting an integrated approach.

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