Public Interest Litigation Challenges Punjab Groundwater Guidelines Fears Imminent Water Crisis

LI Network

Published on: November 26, 2023 at 12:20 IST

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been lodged with the Punjab and Haryana High Court, challenging the guidelines introduced in January 2023 regarding the extraction and preservation of groundwater in Punjab.

Dhruv Chawla, the petitioner, argues that these guidelines are deficient in achieving their intended purpose of water conservation and violate the Punjab Water Resources Management and Regulation Act.

Expressing concern over Punjab’s impending groundwater crisis, Chawla refers to a 2020 groundwater assessment by the Central Groundwater Authority, revealing over-exploitation in most districts.

The petitioner contends that if the current depletion persists, Punjab’s groundwater could drop below 300 meters by 2039, according to the Central Ground Water Board.

Chawla asserts that the 2023 guidelines lack effectiveness in water conservation, lack adherence to sustainable development principles, exhibit ambiguity, and fail to incentivize water conservation.

He criticizes the credit system for water conservation, describing it as ineffective due to minimal rebates. Additionally, the plea argues that industries supplying treated groundwater to irrigation lack proper incentives for conservation.

The petitioner notes that the draft guidelines in 2020 initially included provisions for water-saving schemes in agriculture but were excluded from the final version.

Chawla contends that industries face heavy extraction charges without adequate mechanisms for water conservation, and the guidelines inadequately address agriculture’s significant role in groundwater depletion.

In light of these concerns, Chawla urges the Court to compel the State government to either withdraw or amend the 2023 guidelines to effectively address groundwater depletion.

He recommends incorporating provisions for water conservation in agriculture, as present in the draft guidelines. Furthermore, Chawla requests the Court to direct comprehensive studies before framing policies to combat groundwater depletion.

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