The green panel was hearing a petition regarding the illegal extraction of groundwater by 40 builders in Noida.
The petition alleged that the authorities concerned had failed to prevent illegal commercial extraction of groundwater, resulting in its depletion.
A bench of Chairperson AK Goel said the unregulated extraction of groundwater was detrimental to the environment and violated directions of the Supreme Court.
The bench, also comprising Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel, said regulation on groundwater extraction was necessary for conservation and to ensure adequate replenishment.
The bench noted that according to the report of a joint committee comprising the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) and the Noida Magistrate, field verification of 33 builders showed 25 had installed borewells without permission.
“Further, it is not shown (in the report) whether the extent of extraction of groundwater is within the permitted limit… and whether the condition for replenishment is followed,” the bench said.
Noting that despite being served with notices, only one builder had appeared before the tribunal, the bench said adverse inference was to be drawn against the remaining builders.
However, the builders would be provided with an opportunity to show permission along with the extent of extraction and replenishment, the bench said.
“We issue directions for sealing all illegally operating borewells and recovery of compensation for illegal extraction of groundwater…,” the green panel said.
“The interim or floor-level compensation can be equal to at least 0.5% of the project cost of the project proponents…,” it added.
The builders have to deposit the compensation within a month, failing which the district magistrate concerned is free to take coercive measures, the tribunal said.
The final compensation has to be assessed by a joint committee comprising the regional director of the Central Ground Water Board (Northern Region) or his representative, representative of the UPPCB and the district magistrate, it added.
“The joint committee may continue the work of inspection of the remaining projects and adopt the same course of action as in the present matter and cover the action taken in the next report,” the tribunal said. PTI MNR SZM