A performance audit, conducted by The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), has revealed large discrepancies in implementation of groundwater regulations across the country.
The report was commissioned to ensure that India was taking the necessary steps to achieve certain targets relating to water scarcity as outlined by the Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The findings from the report, which was presented to Parliament on December 21, 2021, are based on five years’ worth of groundwater management and regulation data (2013-2018).
“As much as 77 per cent units in 18 states of India are operating without no-objection certificates (NOC) despite clear instructions in the consent to operate (CtO) document,” the audit revealed. An NOC is, in effect, water extraction permission.
The CAG report also revealed that 10,578 new applications and 144 for renewal were pending with the Board as of March 31, 2019, which is said to have been “three times more than the fresh NOCs issued last year.”
A main point of concern from the report findings was that groundwater extraction had increased from 58 per cent to 63 per cent between the period of 2004-2017, with a sharp decline in the number of assessment units considered safe.
According to the report, eight states or Union territories across India have violated the national level targets of groundwater extraction, as set out by SDG target 6.4.
“All the states shall adopt model groundwater bill and try to regulate their own groundwater. States like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab have already implemented this," said a groundwater expert from CGWA.
For India to achieve SDG goal 6 by 2030, current groundwater regulations must be strengthened effective immediately, as per the guidance set out in the CAG report.