Instead of groundwater, Gurgaon builders can use treated sewage: CSE

  • Punjab and Haryana High Court restrains Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) from giving licenses to builders unless they give an affidavit that they will not use groundwater

  • Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says court’s concern justified, but the ban on groundwater use might be difficult to implement as there is insufficient municipal supply

  • Use of treated sewage, rainwater harvesting and protecting its recharge zones might be the only way out for the parched city

New Delhi, July 18, 2012: Gurgaon needs 184 million litres a day (MLD) of water. The net supply by the municipality does not meet even 50 per cent of this demand. The city uses up its groundwater to meet the shortfall. Given this situation, how feasible would it be to implement the recent court ban on the use of groundwater by builders in Gurgaon?

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says it might not be. While appreciating the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s concern and order restraining the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) from giving licenses to builders unless they give an affidavit that they will not use groundwater for construction, CSE experts believe that with the abysmal state of municipal supply, it might be very difficult to rein in groundwater usage.

Says Nitya Jacob, CSE’s programme director for water (policy and advocacy): “A more workable solution is mandating builders to use treated sewage for construction. Gurgaon treats 137 MLD of sewage a day, more than sufficient to meet builders’ needs.”

“Additionally,” he says, “better quality and more rainwater harvesting should be mandated to improve local water availability. A third step would be for city agencies to invest in securing Gurgaon’s local water endowment by protecting its recharge zones in the Aravallis.”

Groundwater in Gurgaon: touching the depths
Gurgaon was completely dependent on groundwater until 1995 when the city authorities built a 69-km channel to bring water from the Western Yamuna Canal. But this canal meets a mere 30 per cent of the city’s water needs. Groundwater, therefore, has remained the key source. Unchecked use of groundwater in the city has resulted in water tables falling at a rate of 1-3 metres a year.

HUDA, of course, rubbishes the data on falling tables. According to it, infrastructure is in place for the city’s current population of 1.6 million, and the Authority is in the process of securing water for another 2.7 million. As per HUDA’a data, water requirement in 2021 would be 918.75 MLD, which will be met through two dedicated canals — the Gurgaon Water Supply Channel and the newly laid NCR canal.

In an interim order in February 2011, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered the city’s authorities to restrict the use of groundwater to drinking and domestic purposes only; use of groundwater for construction was banned. It had also ordered sealing of borewells used by builders. But none of the directives were carried out in earnest. A few hundred borewells were sealed, but many of them are operational once again, say residents. 

In March 2012, the Court had directed the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) to file a comprehensive affidavit by May 1, 2012 outlining how it would regulate groundwater use. The Court has also been asking CGWA for details of groundwater levels in the fast-expanding industrial and financial hub. The CGWA claims it cannot ascertain the details as it has neither the money nor the staff to do so!

For more on what’s happening to Gurgaon and its water and sewage management, please get in touch with Nitya Jacob on / 98101 89408.