Following the court order, all construction activity has been stalled in Gurgaon until the developers arrange to procure recycled water from the two sewage treatment plants (STP) located at Dhanwapur and Behrampur.
The district administration has also announced a reward of Rs 500 for those who give information about such borewells being used at construction sites as well as for other purposes. This, they maintain has paid rich dividends as they are flooded with calls from people giving complaints.
“We get around six to seven calls on a daily basis from people who report these matters. The reward has paid rich dividends as even in villages, there is always somebody to report such illegal activities and our officials conduct surprise checks to stop it,” said deputy commissioner PC Meena.
Cracking the whip
The district administration had recently sent notices to 81 developers, asking them to stop construction immediately and to not commence it until they produce a confirmation from the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), to the effect that they are no longer extracting ground water and are using water recycled from HUDA’s STPs or any other approved source.
HUDA would also maintain records of treated water procured by each developer from its STPs, and whether the quantity was sufficient to meet construction needs.
Further, HUDA and the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) would provide primary and secondary treated sewage water, and the developer will have to treat it further (tertiary treatment) at the construction site before it can be put to use.
Water supply through tankers at the construction sites have been banned as the entire district of Gurgaon has been declared as a notified area by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) for regulation of ground water, officials added.
Meena said that almost all the big developers have submitted an affidavit that they will use treated water for construction purposes. “Although I am not aware of the exact figures, almost everybody have submitted the affidavit,” said Meena. HUDA sources maintained that more than 120 builders have agreed to use treated water.
After the High Court order, contempt of court proceedings would be initiated against any developer found using ground water for construction.
The district administration had recently constituted 25 teams for keeping vigil in their respective areas and to ensure that underground water was not being used for construction purposes.
As per figures available, until August 20 this year, as many as 634 illegal borewells were sealed and dismantled. Since then, the administration has been conducting intensive checks, which took the number of sealed and dismantled illegal borewells to 824.
According to an estimate, sewage water amounting to nearly 150 million litres per day (MLD) is being treated in Gurgaon every day. This includes 30 MLD from MCG’s plant in Dhanwapur, 68 MLD from HUDA’s plant in the same location, and 50 MLD from HUDA’s STP at Behrampur.
Meena said that more than 100 FIRs have been lodged against those who have been found using ground water for construction purposes. Even the SHO-level police officers have been intimated that they should take action on any such occurrence.
However, despite the administration’s claims, sources maintained that usage of ground water for construction is still going on in many parts of the city with the authorities turning a blind eye on it. There are localities such as DLF Phase III where construction of guest houses and other smaller structures (buildings up to five storeys) are taking place and people are using ground water for construction.
The recent directive by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to HUDA that no developer should be issued licenses for new housing projects in Gurgaon, without signing an undertaking that no ground water would be used for construction, has evoked a mixed response.
Industry body Assocham said that Haryana gets as much as 50 per cent of investments in the realty sector. “This investment was largely driven by a construction boom in Gurgaon, which is a hub of corporates. With a halt to construction activity, investment in the state would be drastically reduced,” said Assocham secretary general DS Rawat.
Of its total investment of Rs 4.98 lakh crore as on December 2011, the real estate sector accounted for Rs 2.48 lakh crore in Haryana, which has other towns like Faridabad, Sonepat, Ambala, Panipat and Karnal where the realty sector is growing fast, even though Gurgaon far surpasses them.
While the water-starved residents of the city have hailed the decision saying that it will ensure to some extent that the severe water crisis is mitigated, developers maintain that the decision would impact the realty sector and would also hurt the investment prospects in the city.
A recent study done by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found shocking details of ground water depletion, supported by evidence that Gurgaon has been drawing ground water excessively, aggravated further after the state government promoted it as an investment destination.
After the CGWA, in August 2011, classified Gurgaon as lying in the dark zone, the district administration too has restricted the permit to borewells only for the purpose of drinking water.
Residents say that the move would save around 50 MLD of water, that was extracted through borewells. That should hopefully arrest further depletion of ground water that now stands at 400 feet.
As of 2004, there were 9,140 borewells registered with the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). The CSE study pegs this at only 50 per cent, which means that there were over 18,000 borewells operating. One can well imagine what the current numbers would be, eight years later.
The primary reason for this increase is that Gurgaon, touted to be the Millennium City, just does not have enough piped water supply to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding city. Residents have no option but to extract ground water or rely on private tankers for their sustenance.
The intervention of the court would arrest the pace of depletion of the water table, but the onus is now on the Haryana government to address this basic need.