'Bombay is under water and Delhi has no water': Supreme Court pulls up Centre, Delhi govt for looming water crisis

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Centre, the Delhi government and their civic bodies for not taking any step to tackle the 'serious problem' of groundwater depletion

FP Staff July 12, 2018 10:40:38 IST
'Bombay is under water and Delhi has no water': Supreme Court pulls up Centre, Delhi govt for looming water crisis

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Centre, the Delhi government and their civic bodies for not taking any step to tackle the "serious problem" of groundwater depletion in the national capital. The court observed that despiute having freshwater potential, the Yamuna was drying up.

"You are doing nothing to reduce water consumption, there is no plan for recharge and preservation of groundwater," a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said. It asked the Centre for immediate, intermediary and long term measures to check the depletion of Delhi's groundwater.

Bombay is under water and Delhi has no water Supreme Court pulls up Centre Delhi govt for looming water crisis

Representational image of the Yamuna river in Delhi. Reuters

The apex court, while observing that the authorities were just "passing the buck" and shying away from their responsibilities, also came down heavily on the Ministry of Water Resources for its affidavit saying a "school child" or a man on the street could also write an essay about the water problem in Delhi. "Have you seen the NITI Aayog report? It says that there will be no ground water in Delhi. There is pollution. Perhaps you will shift the capital. From where will groundwater come," a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said. "Muhammad bin Tughluq was smart and 400 years ago, he had shifted the capital (from Delhi)," the bench said.

ASG Nadkarni quoted a NITI Aayog report which stated that certain cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi will reach a zero groundwater situation by 2020. Reacting to this submission, Justice Lokur said, “By then, all the people in Delhi will already be dead because of no water.” Taking note of the problematic environmental and water situation faced by cities across the country, Justice Lokur rued, “Bombay is under water, Delhi has no water…there’s no water even in Shimla… your report says there is freshwater potential in Yamuna but there is no Yamuna left”, the Bar and Bench quoted Justice Lokur as saying.

"You give us suggestions — immediate, intermediary and long term steps — for this. There should also be steps for recharge and preservation of groundwater. You are doing nothing to reduce water consumption. There is no plan for recharge and preservation of groundwater," the bench told the authorities.

The bench also pulled up the Delhi government and Delhi Pollution Control Committee for not filing their affidavits in the matter and observed that they were not even bothered about the problems faced by the national capital. The bench asked Nadkarni to file an affidavit within four weeks giving details of the steps which were required to be taken in the matter.

The court had on 8 May expressed grave concern on "over-exploitation" of groundwater in most parts of Delhi and asked the authorities to avert a crisis, saying the situation was "semi-critical". It had then perused a report filed by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) on the status of groundwater level in Delhi from May 2000 till May 2017 and said it indicated an "extremely sad state of affairs" and the situation was serious.

The issue of depletion of ground water had cropped up when the court was hearing a matter relating to the sealing of unauthorised constructions in Delhi. The top court is dealing with the issue relating to the validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised construction from being sealed.  The court had earlier asked the secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, the Delhi Government and Delhi Pollution Control Committee to inform it about the "possible solutions" to this situation.

The CGWB, in its report, had said there were some pockets in Delhi where the change in ground water level was not significant or had remained unchanged and such pockets of shallow and rising water level areas have diminished over the period. The court had expressed concern over the fact that even in areas where the President's Estate was located, the ground water level has depleted over the years.

Meanwhile, The Supreme Court also said there were flood-like situations in Mumbai, while there was no water in places like Shimla and nine percent rainfall deficiency in north India. "One place is dry and one place has floods. So, you will say that the average is good. What do you propose to do? Nothing. You are just passing the buck," the court said.

With inputs from PTI

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