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Webinar: New Groundwater Guidelines – Government and Industry Perspective

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Introduction: The Centre has notified fresh guidelines on groundwater use, prescribing penalties for extracting water without permission and for other offences after a set of rules notified in 2018 was struck down by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The new guidelines seek to plug a regulatory vacuum in granting no objection certificates for groundwater use as the earlier set of rules was struck down by the NGT in January 2019.

APAC News Network organized a webinar in conjunction with National Water Mission, Uttar Pradesh Groundwater Department, IIT Kanpur and Technology partner Kritsnam Technologies in mid February. ‘New Groundwater Guidelines – ‘Government and Industry Perspective, Challenges and Way Forward’ on February 19 involving top officials from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) and other stakeholders. The webinar was moderated by Souvik Goswami, co-founder, APAC News Network.

Sunil Kumar, Member, Central Ground Water Authority

While delivering the keynote address outlined the issues in water distribution, new guidelines for the industry, the challenges and the way forward. Issues in water distribution were water leakage, lack of proper distribution channels, lack of metering and inequitable supply of water.

Major consumers of groundwater include thermal power stations, engineering works, pulp and paper production, textiles and sugar industry.

Stating that there was a need to reduce the water footprint by the industries, he said that the government brought out new guidelines. The last few years has witnessed drying up of wells in central and western parts of India which has resulted in rise in cost of lifting of power, seawater ingress in coastal aquifers, reduction in base flow into rivers and streams, degradation of fertile lands and drying up of rivers.

Mr Sunil Kumar explained the new guidelines for industry that include annual water auditing and adopt suitable technologies to reduce water footprint by 20% in three years. Respective industry needs to comply with the bylaws in their region and opt for rainwater harvesting.

The industry needs to make sure pollutants do not enter aquifers. Need to promote recycling and reuse water in a big way, he stated. Speakingabout the mining industry, the government is keen on gainful usage of water that is extracted, he said. As per the new guidelines, in the infrastructure sector, those using more than 20 KLD need to install STP.

Launch of water efficient appliances, penalties, EC, installing meters and recycle and reuse would help in reduction of pressure on groundwater.

The impact of the new guidelines is beginning to show as more than 20 applicants reduced the water usage due to the penalties. Mr Sunil Kumar stated that the penalties are acting as a deterrent along with an impact assessment report.

The Government would create a Water Conservation Fund and take up conservation measures through schemes, he said.

We have mandated installation of tamper proof flow meters with telemetry at groundwater abstraction structures. Tamper proof flow meters are defined as battery operated (4-5 years life) with telemetry data sent directly to the server without manipulation in between. The meter has to be installed in the delivery pipe without bypass, he said.

Anupam, Executive Engineer, UP Ground Water Department

Mr Anupam said that Uttar Pradesh had its own groundwater Act based on 2016 model and later finalised rules in 2020. “There are two sides-supply and demand. The act caters to both in regulating extraction and promoting the judicious use of water. Like the new guidelines issued by the CGWA, exemption for the MSME sector is being incorporated in the notified area.

We grant permission for extraction of water with annual usage and do cross examination with flow meters. The installation of flow meters with telemetry have been incorporated in our act.The Chief Secretary is the apex authority and the specification of tamper proof flow meters has been discussed, he added. Battery operated flow meters are considered to be tamper proof and we shall be finalizing the specifications soon on this.

Vinay Chataraju, Co-founder, Kritsnam Technologies

“Water management in India is a guesswork as we do not have data. Also the water sector is at least one decade behind the power sector in terms of technology adoption. The time has come to start measuring water resources at all levels-be it rivers, reservoirs, tanks, ponds, canals, groundwater or any other water body,” said Vinay whose company is providing services to several state governments.

He went to add that water management needs to be data driven and the need to digitize data is here and now! In India, policies are made on presumptions due to the lack of data. The need of the hour is to digitize the data on water.

Explaining about Dhaara Smart Ultrasonic Flow meter he said that there were several features that suit the Indian conditions such as it is battery operated with up to 5 years life and there is no dependency on external power supply. It has an inbuilt telemetry unit, trip reset option, can calculate pump working hours, trigger alerts and data transmission. He said, “It allows managers to take decisions on how much water needs to be extracted and for how long. Also, the users can access the data at the fingertips on platforms like WhatsApp/SMS/email. One can monitor the actual cost of water associated with the product unit economics.”

He also said that with the rise in awareness towards sustainability, industries should be ready for ISO 46001 standard which is being demanded globally for efficient water management. To achieve water efficiency, industries should adopt a continuous internal water audit system. All the processes in the industry should capture their daily water consumption online using flow meters, this data is very much helpful in annual water auditing too.

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Mahendra Singh Tanwar, Municipal Commissioner, Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation

Ghaziabad is an industrial town with a population of 25 lakh and is growing fast. Explaining the steps taken towards groundwater management, Mr Mahendra Singh said, “The town requires 300 MLD per day and 45% of the need is met from groundwater. The municipal corporation is taking measures to tackle this situation through several measures including rainwater harvesting.”

The Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation has identified 100 parks where water logging takes place and is going for rainwater harvesting. It has also identified 46 water bodies that would be rejuvenated and improve the water seepage.

In a novel initiative, the corporation is planning to transfer RO water from households through pipes to industries. He added, “There is enough water through STP that can be sent to the industries through pipeline. We wish to remove the dependency on groundwater completely over a period of time.”

Pankaj Gupta, President, Industries Association of Uttarakhand

From the industry perspective, Pankaj Gupta wants the Government to have a more considerate stand towards the industry. He said that the industry was responsive as well as responsible. On the new guidelines, he said that “Frequent changes in the policy do not do good for the industry. Inconsistency and uncertainty deters investment and investors. Frequent changes in rules affect the industry as it affects the production cycle and bottom lines.”

He further added that the government should assure that the new rules would stay at least for 15-20 years so that it instills confidence in the industry.

Another issue he raised was the lack of water auditors, citing the example of Uttarakhand, he said, “There were just two auditors but the government insists on submitting reports on time.” He wanted the government to remove certain penalties as they were in lakhs even for minor issues.

While assuring the government that the industry would comply with the new rules, he requested the authority to provide concessions for water charges and incentivize good performers so that industry would get energized and work in tandem.

Venkaiah Vadlamudi, Project Manager, Solidaridad Asia

Among the various industries, tanneries consume a lot of water and Kanpur has a sizable number. Solidaridad Asia, a Netherland based NGO has been working in several sectors. Venkaiah presented the initiatives taken by Solidaridad in reducing the water consumption in tanneries. He said, “The NGO visits tanneries and makes an assessment. 36% of water was saved after installing meters in tanneries. After installing the desalting machine, TDS was reduced by 33%.”

If we can provide solenoid valves with auto cut based on the water consumption additional water can be saved. 50 % water was saved during the fleshing process. Mr Venkaiah said, “The tannery saved 5,000 litres of water each day and this was supplied to 99 tanneries.”

Tanneries in India do not do water audit and with the help of Solidaridad Asia in collaboration with Kritsnam Technologies, audit was done in three tanneries in Kanpur. Tanneries are being empowered to go for measurement based water usage in all their processes, which not only saves the water but also brings uniformity in product quality. Non-uniformity product quality in leather is one of the major reasons for batch rejection in leather exports, he said.

Key points from the webinar

Demands from industry

  • Reduction in water charge. Representatives from the mining industry state that a major portion of the water extracted is used in a gainful manner and want benefit on that part of water.
  • More time to submit Impact Assessment Report
  • Instead of advance payment, allow to pay in installments.
  • Want EC portion to be removed while submission

Way forward

The Government of India is planning to:

  • Set up a Water Conservation Fund and would take up conservation through schemes
  • Create a workforce of water auditors with proper training.
  • The government should give orientation to consultants to handhold industries in adopting new technologies for efficient use of groundwater.
  • Tamper proof flow meters should be battery operated and they shall be installed on groundwater abstraction structures without any bypass to report actual consumption of water.
  • National Water Awards was constituted last year and applications are being sought for this year as well.
  • Create groundwater modelers and conduct orientation courses.

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