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NGT asks Railways to seek CGWA NoC for groundwater extraction

New Delhi : The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Railways to seek no objection certificates (NoC) from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) for extracting groundwater to clean station platforms and coaches even as the green tribunal is understood to have directed the Centre, state governments and their various agencies to submit a comprehensive plan for restoration of groundwater and check erosion of the water table on an urgent basis.

The principal bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel has directed the stakeholders to submit a mitigation plan by September-end. The bench has asked the CGWB to spearhead the action but groundwater departments of all states would have to submit concrete steps for the mitigation.

In a separate case, the green tribunal has also set up a monitoring committee headed by a former high court judge to prepare a time-bound action plan on groundwater recharge in the National Capital.

The NGT has directed the CGWA to address the issue of issuance of NoCs to the Indian Railways. “The Railways should seek NoC from the CGWA for the present purpose. The authority shall take up the matter on priority and will decide the question of NoC at the earliest", said a bench headed by NGT judicial member Raghuvendra S Rathore.

The bench also directed the Railway Board to approach the CGWA for the purpose of NoC zone-wise. "On filing of the application the zonal officer or regional office of the CGWA shall decide such application and pass appropriate orders within a period of one month thereafter", it said.

The NGT directions followed hearing of a plea that had sought directions to stop “indiscriminate withdrawal” of groundwater by the Railways. The plea had also sought directions to the Railways to install rainwater harvesting systems in all 73 divisions across the 16 zones.

“Railways have failed to comply with the directions of the CGWA, making it mandatory for all industrial establishments falling in the over-exploited and critical areas to adopt rooftop rain water harvesting systems on their premises” the plea submitted by an NGO and an individual had contended.

It had also sought directions to the Railways to recycle water at its establishments and install sewage treatment plants (STPs) in its premises and effluent treatment plants (ETPs) in its industrial complexes.

Meanwhile, a bench headed by NGT chairperson has constituted the committee for the Capital to “monitor the situation for six months with a view to enhance the availability of groundwater by adopting suitable measures, check contamination and take a final call on the plans for proper utilisation of treated effluents”.

The monitoring committee will be headed by a former Delhi High Court Judge and will have representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board, Central Ground Water Authority and jurisdictional SDM.

“There is also an issue of encroachment of Delhi floodplains that leads to reducing groundwater recharge. Beyond suggesting sealing of borewells or handpumps, where water is contaminated, no suggestion has come forward for treating the contamination,” the bench said.

The committee has been asked to “take stock of all actions taken so far” and prepare a time-bound action plan to deal with the matter.

“The committee may prepare an action plan which shall have targets of ensuring compliance. The district magistrates of the concerned districts will be co-ordinators of their respective districts", the NGT said.

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