Shimla, April 6- Himachal Pradesh Assembly amends Ground Water Act, replaces imprisonment with fine
The Himachal Pradesh Assembly has amended the HP Ground Water Act, 2005, to remove the provision of five years of imprisonment for those who fail to comply with or contravene any of the act’s provisions. The amendment replaces imprisonment with a fine of up to ten lakh rupees. However, the clause of penalty in the act remains in place.
The amendment has exempted irrigation, drinking water, and hand pumps from the act. There is already a provision of deemed permission after sixty days of applying for setting up a tubewell and extracting groundwater for commercial purposes.
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh said that the discussion is being given political overtones, and the government has already given an exhaustive reply on all issues.
The Leader of the Opposition, Jai Ram Thakur, demanded a rider on industrial units to keep a limit on water extraction from the ground. He opposed the amendment to remove the provision of imprisonment, saying that the psychological impact of fear should have been there on the violators. He demanded two sets of provisions for commercial and drinking water, agriculture, and domestic purposes. The Leader of the Opposition stated that water levels are going down drastically in the industrial belt of the state.
BJP member Hans Raj suggested that the over-extraction of water from bore wells and hand pumps should be included in the amendment, and the penal provision of Rs 10 lakh should be enhanced.
Tarlok Jamwal of Bilaspur said that the amendment would disrupt the extraction of groundwater for personal purposes of people also. “If any person wants to set up a hand pump on his own land he has to take permission from the IPH Department. They did not provide permission so easily,” he stated.
Supporting the amendment, KL Thakur of Nalagarh said that the bill is praiseworthy to stop the over-exploitation of water from the water tables. He noted that water sources should be made intact for the industry, and penalty provisions are reasonable. Opposing the amendment, Dr Janak Raj of Bharmour said that law-abiding people would be affected by the amendment, but those who have money would enjoy liberty.
Vinod Kumar of the BJP sought to increase the amendment’s scope by keeping some drinking water-affected areas out of its purview.
Sukh Ram Chaudhary of Paonta Sahib said that the water tables of the plain are critical and needed for irrigation and industry. The industry would only be set up in the state if there was permission to set up tubewell. He said permission to set up a tubewell and hand pump should be deemed regular after one month of application. The bill was cleared by the House through a voice vote.