Tamil Nadu lauded for regulating industry’s groundwater extraction

It issues permit only to units that have obtained no-objection certificates

Published - December 29, 2021 01:25 am IST - CHENNAI

The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has commended Tamil Nadu for having put in place a system of issuing the permit — Consent to Operate — only to industrial units that have obtained no-objection certificates from the authorities for groundwater extraction.

Pointing this out in its performance audit report on groundwater management and regulation, which was placed in Parliament last week, the CAG said such a system was in place only in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Its study covered the period of 2013-18 and information was updated till September 2020.

In Tamil Nadu, the regulation for the groundwater management and issue of no-objection certificates for groundwater extraction authorises the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Bureau of Indian Standards to accord permission only after ensuring that applicants have got the no-objection certificates.

Besides, no schemes can be formulated in over-exploited and critical ‘firkas’ (which are smaller than blocks and encompasses 10-15 villages). All schemes should be formulated through the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre, Chennai.

The CAG’s appreciation assumes importance as its study of 328 cases in 18 States has revealed that 77% of the industrial projects were operating without the no-objection certificates for groundwater extraction.

Assessment unit

The country’s topmost auditor has also lauded the State for adopting ‘firka’ as the assessment unit because this is expected to help in identification of pockets of groundwater potential within the over- exploited and critical blocks, leading to optimal utilisation of the resources. For the purpose of effective regulation and implementation of assessment, the the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre decided in 2011 to take the ‘firka’ as the assessment unit.

As for the variations in guidelines between those of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) and those of the States and the Union Territories, the CAG observed that in Tamil Nadu, “individual households are exempted from obtaining the no-objection certificate, whereas this is not so in the CGWA guidelines”.

It stated that there was “no specific mention” of mandatory recycle or reuse. After the repeal of the groundwater law for parts of the State other than the Chennai Metropolitan Area, a fresh law has not yet been framed. (The present State government is working on it).

More importantly, the CAG clubbed Tamil Nadu with seven other States for having a high stage of groundwater extraction. In respect of Tamil Nadu, the stage was 81%.

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