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Over 20,000 illegal borewells in Delhi, DJB tells NGT

Apr 19, 2024 05:50 AM IST

More than 12,000 illegal borewells have been sealed since 2021, the water utility said in a submission

There are 20,552 illegal borewells in Delhi, Delhi Jal Board has told the National Green Tribunal in a submission made in response to a petition on illegal extraction of groundwater in south Delhi’s Ayanagar filed in September 2022, according to official documents.

The National Green Tribunal in New Delhi. (File)
The National Green Tribunal in New Delhi. (File)

The documents showed that the maximum number of these borewells, 9,128, were found in northwest Delhi district followed by 6,681 in southwest Delhi district. More than 12,000 illegal borewells have been sealed since 2021, the water utility said in the submission on April 15

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“The Delhi Jal Board or the revenue department will take action against illegal borewells, particularly focusing on areas where groundwater is being over exploited or where groundwater is being extracted for commercial purpose. The borewells that have been sealed, will be given fresh permission to operate only when the water table in the area is satisfactory,” according to a submission made by the environment department in the same case on April 15.

According to the latest Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) assessment of Delhi from 2022, Delhi has 34 tehsils or assessment units, of which 15 are classified as ‘over-exploited’. Seven tehsils are critical, eight are semi-critical and only four are safe, marking the groundwater level in each of these areas.

Delhi suffers from a water supply shortfall of around 300 million gallons per day (MGD) shortfall almost throughout the year. The problem is particularly acute the summer months when the demand goes up and water level in the Yamuna decreases. Water supply between May and July is often affected in several neighbourhoods across the city.

Based on the current standard of 60 gallons per capita per day the current requirement of water in Delhi is 1,290 million gallons per day (MGD) for an estimated population of 21.5 million. However, the Delhi Jal Board supplies about 1000 MGD every day — a shortfall of nearly 300 MGD.

The Delhi government, in its submission before the tribunal in the same case on April 15, said that it was creating a website, which will provide data on all borewells in Delhi, along with a map marking their location. The website will be created by Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). It will also display the location of borewells that have been sealed and the Environmental Damage Compensation (EDC) cess imposed on the people who used them.

“The DPCC has been directed to recover EDC. DPCC, along with the district magistrates, have been directed to focus on areas where groundwater level is low. DPCC will also develop a website for giving permissions to dig borewells,” the government said in the submission. It said that 70.65 crore has been imposed as total EDC cess in Delhi since 2021, of which 53.7 lakh has been collected so far from 121 violators.

NGT was hearing a plea filed by Ayanagar resident Pritipal Sharma, who in September 2022 had alleged that illegal groundwater extraction through borewells was taking place in the area.

According to data shared by Delhi Jal Board with the green tribunal in 2021, there were 19,661 illegal borewells in Delhi. It said the 5,000 such borewells were sealed in Delhi during that period.

Atul Goyal, United Residents Joint Action (Urja) of Delhi, a consortium of more than 2500 resident welfare associations (RWAs) in the capital, said a number of these borewells sprung up in the early 2000s, when water supply, particularly in the outer parts of Delhi, was a big problem.

“We have seen an improvement in the supply, but even then, these old borewells are still in use. There is a mix of industries and residential neighbourhoods in northwest and southwest Delhi, explaining the high number of illegal borewells in those areas. Until we meet the gap between demand and supply, it is natural that borewells will crop up illegally,” Goyal said.

Diwan Singh, a water activist and member of the LG-appointed Dwarka Water Bodies Committee said most borewells were installed during the construction of houses. However, they continue to be used after the construction is done.

“No water supply was available in unauthorised colonies where large scale construction was done. So borewells were used to supply water. The figure of 20,000 seems small and the actual number of illegal borewells in use could be much higher,” said Singh. He added that the jal board should conduct regular drives to stop illegal extraction of groundwater.

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