The case before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the drinking water packaging units has brought back the focus on a law that has not seen implementation for over 10 years now.
Officials at the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), who were at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday when the case was heard, told Express that one of the basic issues with the units was that they lacked consent to extract groundwater for carrying out their businesses.
While some of them had applied to the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) for consent, their applications had been rejected citing a 2011 Madras High Court order, which had directed the State government not to allow extraction of groundwater for commercial purposes till the Tamil Nadu Groundwater (Development and Management) Act was notified.
According to representatives of companies that came before the National Green Tribunal, the law was enacted way back in 2003. However, the rules for the Act was was yet to be finalised.
In the meantime, when a matter relating to groundwater extraction came up before the High Court in 2011, the judges took the opinion that water extraction for commercial purposes could not be allowed till the Act was notified.
This meant, such water packaging units across Tamil Nadu, without exception, could be illegal even though they had obtained other consents such as from the Bureau of Indian Standards.
But the officials conceded that there was much ambiguity on the implementation of the court’s direction.
One official said the order might not be of relevance to the current cases as it primarily involved units in and around Chennai.
“For this area, there is another law called the Chennai Metropolitan Area Groundwater (Regulation) Act. So, whether the court order banning extraction applies to this area is a question the Public Works Department has to look into,” said the official.
Officials pointed out that the order of the High Court in February 2011 was consequent to the stand taken by the then government that it was mulling changes to the law.