Nearly two months after the draft Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Rules, 2018, was made public for suggestions and objections, a committee of experts had been constituted to study the feedback on the proposed groundwater rules in the state. The draft rules for which the state government has invited comments — states that any farmer intending to cultivate a crop which is “water-intensive” will have to apply to a Watershed Water Resources Committee (WWRC) 30 days before the sowing period of the crop.
The WWRC is headed by the chairman of the concerned tehsil or block-level panchayat samiti with other members of water supply, sanitation and agriculture who will in turn consult officials of Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) before granting permission. Till date, a total of 4,300 suggestions and objections have been received and a committee, led by Shah, additional director, GSDA, will review each of these during the month, top officials said. Shah who heads the panel said suggestions were being examined and a report would be sent to the government by the month-end.
These rules had been made with the objective of preventing the uncontrolled withdrawal of groundwater and appreciated by some, he said. “One has to understand that the increasing the groundwater levels is not that simple. The absence of porosity, the extent of the basaltic formation, the local level activity — there is much diversity. The structure is hard in some places, porous in others, moderate in few, and the type and extent of water retention differs.”
“Maharashtra has 44,000 villages of which 10,000 have identified as scarcity — where the duration of rainfall has been less this year and the span and quantum of rainfall also has been less in places. Therefore, the draft rules have been formulated for the control of withdrawal of water,” he said.
Once implemented, Maharashtra may become the first state to have strict measures to check not only the misuse of groundwater but also monitor the quality of it, fix permissible depth for borewells and introduce mandatory registration for these wells. Currently, there is no authentic census on the borewells in the state but the idea is to discourage borewells and promote dugwells where it is easier to recharge water, he said.