Aquifer depletion is a largely invisible threat, but that does not make it
any less real
With over 18 percent of the world's population, but the country still has only
four per cent of the world's freshwater resources. Can we think of neglecting
it? Don't we need to regulate it to preserve and not to pollute it?
After having independence for more than 7 decades, India still doesn't have any
proper law for maintaining groundwater neither for preserving it nor to prevent
If we focus on the seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution, water as a
subject belongs to the states which makes it their responsibility to manage and
regulate it. But under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Central
Groundwater Authority can issue guidelines to states and has the responsibility
to keep a check on groundwater level by conducting surveys across the nation.
There is no direct legislation for groundwater regulation, however there's an
Indian Easement Act, 1882 of British-Era which gives landowners the right to
collect and dispose of all water under the land within their own limits, which
is again not a positive action towards this issue.
The broader classification of this situation in our nation is:
- There was no Bill prepared for groundwater legislation
- where there was a Bill but, it hasn't yet been converted to an Act
- where a Bill has been passed to form an Act but, without any rules to
- where there was an Act with rules
In 1970, Model Bill was framed by the Ministry of Water Resources. It included
some guidelines for states to use and develop their own specific groundwater
acts, which was later updated in 1992,1996,and 2005. In 2017, there was another
bill framed keeping in mind the decentralization of groundwater regulation,
i.e., Model Groundwater (Sustainable Management) Bill.
Now, there are states and few UTs which enacted their own legislation namely
Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir,
Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry and West Bengal, but that was also
mostly drafted around the earlier Model Bills.
There's a case law on groundwater regulation, i.e., M.C. Mehta v. Union of
(Groundwater Case),1997 led by the bench of K Ramaswamy and S S Ahmad,
which ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forest to constitute the Central
Groundwater Board as an Authority under Section 3(3) of the Act. The Authority
so constituted shall exercise all the powers under the Act necessary for the
purpose of regulation and control of groundwater management and development.
The Central Government shall confer on the Authority the power to give
directions under Section 5 of the Act and also powers to take such measures or
pass any orders in respect of all the matters referred to in Section 3(2) of
Even after, India has many legislations and agencies dealing with groundwater
resources, yet the enforcement of such becomes a problem in our country due to
inefficiency of public officials and corruption.
India still needs to make one proper central legislation for the problem we are
there with and our generation will face it too if we will not open our eyes