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Availability of drinking water first priority, industries shall find alternative ways: NGT

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This aerial photo taken on October 18, 2019 shows the sun rising over the Yamuna River on a polluted day in New Delhi.

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New Delhi: Availability of water for drinking is the first priority and it is for industries and authorities concerned to find out alternative ways for their sustenance instead of permitting indiscriminate withdrawal of groundwater, the National Green Tribunal has said.

The green panel said since the "critically" exploited areas have been found to be seriously affected by withdrawal of groundwater, regulating such extraction for commercial purposes cannot be dispensed with.

"Availability of water for drinking is the first priority. The 'Precautionary' principle, 'Sustainable Development' principle and the Inter-generational equity are part of life and in absence of replenishment of groundwater, unregulated drawl thereof cannot be held to be right of any commercial entity. Shortage of availability of water for commercial purposes cannot be remedied by withdrawal of groundwater in over exploited, critically exploited and semi-critical exploited (OCS) areas," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said.

It said, "Water is certainly a scarce resource and the industry has to put up with such scarcity. It is for the industry and the concerned authorities to find out alternative ways and means for sustenance of the industries instead of permitting indiscriminate withdrawal of groundwater in such areas till situation improves."

The tribunal suggested that alternative means may be shifting to areas where water is not scarce or to processes where water is not required.

"As already noted, groundwater is depleting in such areas and measures are required to check such depletion. If industries continue to draw groundwater without NOC from Central Ground Water Authority as per current guidelines and orders of this tribunal in OCS areas, the industries will have to face legal consequence of such illegal action," the bench said.

The tribunal's observation came while disposing a plea filed by Association of the Industrial Manufactures seeking impleadment in a petition filed by Ghaziabad resident  Shailesh Singh.

The plea had also sought a direction to close industrial units running without the requisite statutory consent under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

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