No sinking wells without permit, says High Court

The Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department, was directed to hold a State-level inquiry with respect to complaints of illegal extraction of groundwater and initiate action not only against the violators but also against the government officials who had failed to curb such a practice.

July 20, 2019 01:06 am | Updated 01:06 am IST - CHENNAI

Chennai, 11/4/2008:  Madras High Court  in Chennai on Friday.  Photo: V. Ganesan.

Chennai, 11/4/2008: Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday. Photo: V. Ganesan.

Nobody can sink a dug well, open well, tube well or borewell in any part of Chennai city without obtaining a permit from Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) as per Section 3 of Chennai Metropolitan Area Groundwater (Regulation) Act of 1987, the Madras High Court pointed out on Friday and called for details regarding the number of permits issued so far across the city.

Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad directed the Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply department to submit the list by August 2. The judges also pointed out that Section 5 of the Act mandates that any person who wants to extract groundwater for any purpose other than domestic and transport it through lorries should make an application to the CMWSSB for grant of licence.

The judges also wanted to know the number of such licences granted so far in the city. Further, the Secretary was directed to hold a State-level inquiry with respect to complaints of illegal extraction of groundwater and initiate action not only against the violators but also against the government officials who had failed to curb such a practice. The result of the inquiry should also be submitted in the court within two weeks, the judges said.

The Division Bench was of the view that illegal extraction of groundwater would not happen without the active support of government officials and therefore all those who had committed as well as abetted the crime must be punished under penal laws.

It was of the view that the acute water scarcity faced by residents of Chennai and other cities could not be a justification to draw groundwater illegally from suburban localities.

130 borewells

The directions were issued while hearing a public interest litigation petition filed against illegal drawal of groundwater from private lands at Pidarithangal village in Poonamallee Taluk of Tiruvallur district. The judges were shocked to learn that as many as 130 illegal borewells were detected in a massive raid conducted in nine villages in the district.

“If there are 132 borewells, it is unimaginable as to how many tanker lorries would have been engaged in transportation,” the judges said and suo motu impleaded the Municipal Administration Secretary as one of the respondents to the case before issuing a slew of the directions to the official.

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