NEW DELHI: Misuse of potable water will be a punishable offence in India with violators facing up to Rs 1 lakh fine and five years in jail, according to a new directive by the Centre.
The Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, has issued a notification under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The notification came following a directive from the National Green Tribunal after a petition was filed by Rajendra Tyagi and Friends (NGO), seeking to make water wastage and misuse a punishable offence in the country.
As per the notification, the civic bodies dealing with water supply in all states and UTs, whether it is the Jal Board, Jal Nigam, Water Works Department, Municipal Corporation, Municipal Council, Development Authority, Panchayat or any other body shall be duty-bound to ensure that there is no waste or misuse of potable water tapped from underground and evolve a compliance mechanism, with coercive measures for violations.
The notification further states that no person in the country shall waste or misuse potable water resources tapped from underground.
"It is pertinent to mention here that failure to comply with this notification, in each such incident of contravention, is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both, and in case the failure or contravention continues, with additional fine, which may extend to five thousand rupees for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention, under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986," said Akash Vashishtha, counsel in the matter.
With over 25 per cent decrease in per capita water availability expected by 2025, the Centre has also written to all states to evolve and implement mechanisms with coercive measures, including penalty, for wasting groundwater.
The NGT had directed the Union Jal Shakti ministry that regulators should ensure that wastage of water is not profitable and the cost of such wastage is recovered.
As per the report of the National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development, the total water availability of India received through precipitation is about 4000 billion cubic metres (BCM) per annum and after evaporation, 1869 BCM water is available as natural runoff, to topographical and other factors, the utilizable water availability is limited to water only 1122 BCM.
According to estimates, the average annual per capita availability between 2011 and 2025 has reduced by over 25 per cent and would further reduce to 36 per cent by 2035.
“It has been observed that there is lack of awareness on the part of the general public in using the groundwater resulting in wastage through the overflowing overhead tanks, excessive use in flushing in toilets, wastage of water in bathing/hand-wash basins/kitchens etc. Apart from this, there is substantial loss of water due to leakage/seepage during transmission/distribution of water and there is a need to sensitize people,” said UP Singh, secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti.