New Delhi: The government is considering introducing stricter rules for sinking tubewells and borewells for domestic use in Delhi even as concerns rise over depleting groundwater levels in the city-state.
Commercial use of groundwater is banned in the whole of Delhi since 2000. However, domestic use of groundwater is banned in only two of the nine districts that constitute Delhi—Delhi South and Delhi South-West.
The Central Ground Water Authority, or CGWA, the government arm in charge of groundwater usage, now wants to ban groundwater usage for domestic purposes—drinking, bathing, washing clothes—in all nine. The ban doesn’t mean the water cannot be used for domestic purposes; it just means that anyone wishing to do this will have to get a so-called no-objection certificate from CGWA.
A file photo of a tanker supplying water near Ranjit Singh flyover in New Delhi. Groundwater usage in Delhi exceeds availability in seven of the nine districts (Photo by: Ramesh Pathania / Mint)
“Except for Central Delhi, the groundwater situation is quite alarming (in Delhi). There is a big gap between demand and supply, which is just increasing every day. Out of the nine districts, seven are categorized as overexploited,” said a CGWA official who did not wish to be identified.
The Delhi government isn’t convinced that the ban is the solution. Senior government officials say that the depletion of groundwater in Delhi may not necessarily be due to its overuse within the state.
Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta said that despite a ban on the use of groundwater in Mehrauli, the groundwater level was depleting in that area. “Groundwater needn’t necessarily be shrinking because it was extracted in Mehrauli. If groundwater is extracted in Gurgaon (which is in Haryana), it can affect (the water table in Mehrauli). Underground aquifers do not follow national or state boundaries,” Mehta added.
CGWA’s proposal is now with the Delhi government which has asked the agency to find out whether the ban in the two districts has produced results. Total drinking and domestic water requirement in Delhi, which has a population of 14.8 million is approximately 900 million gallons per day (mgd); this is expected to go up to 1355mgd by 2021. Groundwater usage in Delhi exceeds availability in seven of the nine districts.
The present installed capacity of different plants that supply water to Delhi is 650mgd, including 100mgd of groundwater. The Water Resources Department of the Planning Commission confirmed the condition of groundwater in Delhi. A senior official, who asked not to be named, said that unless the depleted water table in Mehrauli is maintained or replenished, that area will become a desert in the next 10 years.
Rahul Chandran contributed to this story.