The Supreme Court, after perusing a report filed by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) on the status of groundwater level in Delhi from May 2000 till May 2017, said it indicated an ‘extremely sad state of affairs’ and the situation was serious. A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, referred to the CGWB report, which said the analysis of long-term water level data, revealed that over the period, in areas categorised as ‘over-exploited’ as per groundwater resources estimation of 2013, the water level decline rate varied from 0.5 metre per year to over two metres per year.
“It is quite clear that there is over-exploitation of groundwater in south district, New Delhi district, south-east district, east district, Shahadara, north-east district and almost all of the rest of Delhi is in a semi-critical state,” the bench noted in its order. “There are only some pockets in west district and central district, which appear to be safe as of now. We can only urge the concerned authorities dealing with governance of Delhi, to look into the report of the Central Ground Water Board to avoid a water crisis,” it said.
The apex court asked the secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, the Delhi Government and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, to inform it about the possible solutions to this situation and posted the matter for consideration on July 11, 2018.
The CGWB, in its report, has said that there were some pockets in Delhi, where the change in groundwater level was not significant or had remained unchanged and such pockets of shallow and rising water level areas, have diminished over the period. “As such, a major part of the state is under the over-exploited and semi-critical categories and in such areas, water levels are showing a persistent declining trend during last two decades,” the report said.
After going through the report, the bench said, “A perusal of the report, which needs to be studied in greater depth, indicates an extremely sad state of affairs”.
During the hearing, the bench was told by an advocate that the situation of groundwater was critical in the national capital and it might lead to a war-like situation, if the issue was not addressed. The court also expressed concern over the fact that even in areas where the President’s Estate was located, the groundwater level had depleted over the years.
The apex court had earlier expressed concern about the depletion of groundwater level in Delhi and asked the CGWB to give the status of groundwater level from the year 2000 onwards in the national capital. The issue of depletion of groundwater had cropped up, when the court was hearing the matter related to sealing of unauthorised constructions in Delhi. The top court is dealing with the issue related to the validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations, which protect unauthorised constructions from being sealed.