Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016

The government of India had released Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016 in May, 2016 and invited public comments over it.

Salient Features

As the title of the bill suggests, it focuses on “Groundwater”. The bill recognizes that groundwater is the single most important source of water for all purposes and is the backbone of drinking water, food and livelihood security in rural as well as urban areas. Taking into account the looming serious groundwater crisis due to excessive overdraft and groundwater contamination, the bill calls for equitable and environmentally sound regulation of groundwater. The salient features of this bill are as follows:

Objectives
  • To ensure the realisation of fundamental right to life through provision of water for life.
  • Meet basic needs of water with respect to food security, livelihoods, livestock, basic human needs and needs of aquatic life.
  • Promote sustainable use of groundwater. Reduce its pollution and make sure that it is accessible to present and future generations.
  • Ensure integration of protection, conservation, regulation and management of ground and surface water.
  • Ensure principle of subsidiarity and protection of ecosystems and their biological diversity.
  • Ensure protection against gender discrimination and past inequalities in access to groundwater.
Right to Water For Life
  • Every person has right to sufficient quantity of safe water for life. This quantity is to be determined by appropriate government.
  • Nobody should use groundwater in such a way that it adversely impacts the realisation of other person’s fundamental right to safe water for life.
  • All drinking water agencies which supply groundwater shall comply with Bureau of Indian Standards specifications on water quality. If the water is not supplies and people depends on groundwater for their needs, it will be duty of the Block, District and State groundwater agencies to ensure that BIS standards are followed.
  • It is state’s responsibility for ensuring every person’s right to safe water even if such service is privatized.
Non-Discrimination and Equity
  • Every person shall have access to groundwater without any discrimination and state shall ensure equitable distribution and access to groundwater as per provisions of this act.
Subsidiarity and decentralization
  • Conservation, use and regulation of groundwater shall be based on the principle of subsidiarity i.e. to be done on local level.
  • The basic principle for conservation, protection, regulation and management of groundwater will be decentralization of powers and functions as postulated in constitution of India.
Legal Status of Groundwater

The bill considers ground water has a “common pool resource” and “common heritage of the people” held in public trust and is subject to reasonable restrictions to protect the fundamental right to water for life. The trustee of groundwater is state at all levels.

Groundwater Use Prioritisation
  • The bill gives first priority of groundwater use to “meeting the right to water for life”, followed by food security, sustenance farming, sustainable livelihoods and ecosystem needs. The allocation of groundwater will be determined by state as per local conditions.
  • Only after meeting the above priorities, groundwater will be allocated for other uses.
Groundwater Protection Zones
  • Every state groundwater agency in consultation with appropriate government and local communities would demarcate the groundwater protection zones {GPZ} and will protect appropriate areas of the aquifer from threats.
  • Creation of GPZs will be based on later dynamic resources assessments conducted by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and state governments.
  • The appropriate government shall take all possible measures to conserve and protect the groundwater protection zones.
  • GPZs will be notified by State Groundwater Agency, based on inputs of regional directorates of CCWB.
Institutional Structure
  • In rural areas, the model bill provides for Gram Panchayat Groundwater Sub-Committee at Gram Panchayat level while Block Panchayat Groundwater Management at block level.
  • In urban areas, it provides for Ward Groundwater Committee at ward of a municipality and Municipal Water Management Committee at municipality level.
  • At district level, it creates a “District Groundwater Council” which shall consolidate the Panchayat, Block, Municipality level ground water protection plans and help in governance.
  • At state level, the State government will establish by Gazette notification a State Groundwater Advisory Council to exercise the powers under this act. Its main function will be to prepare and implement Integrated State Groundwater Security Plan.
Extraction of ground water
  • Once this model bill becomes law, no one will be allowed to abstract groundwater for industrial use or infrastructure projects without an authorisation issued by the appropriate government.
  • The bill also has provisions to charge a fee for industrial and bulk use of groundwater.
Penal Provisions
  • The bill says that whoever does any activity, which prejudicially affects the quality of groundwater or availability thereof shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to one year and six months or with a fine, which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.

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