Judgment of the National Green Tribunal regarding the depleting Kolkata water table and arsenic contamination, 01/12/2023

  • 01/12/2023

Judgment of the National Green Tribunal (Eastern Zone Bench) in the matter of  'In Re-News Item published in the Times of India Newspaper, Calcutta edition dated 23.03.2023 titled Kolkata Water Table Dips 2m in 5 years, Experts flag rise in arsenic, salinity' dated 01/12/2023.

The NGT had taken up the matter on the basis of a news report published in the 'Times of India' newspaper, Kolkata edition dated March 23, 2023. The article stated that the data submitted by the Central Ground Water Board showed that between 2017-21 the ground water level in Kolkata has dropped by 2.1 m which is a decline of 18.6 per cent over the level recorded five years ago. If the depletion in ground water in Kolkata is not checked, the fall in ground water level would reach 44 per cent by 2025 as per the research data.

 It was also reported that higher arsenic contamination has already been reported in Kolkata and South 24 Parganas which is likely to increase due to depletion of ground water.  

The NGT, December 1, 2023 directed the state respondents to expedite implementation of its Detailed Project Report (DPR) within three years with a further direction that the Government shall carry out Water Testing Programmes at regular intervals and ensure that there is no arsenic contamination in the water.

A further direction was issued to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to complete its project of supplying potable drinking water to the remaining population of the city within a period of three years.

Affidavit dated September 22, 2023 filed by the Public Health Engineering Directorate dated that in South 24 Parganas district, arsenic contamination has been observed in shallower depths in a few blocks (Bishnupur, Baruipur, Sonarpur, Bhangar-I, Joynagar-I and Magrahat-II). Provision for arsenic and iron removal plants has been made in the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the new piped water supply scheme in the area of installation.

The report also stated that considering the rising trend of contamination of the metalloid - 232 arsenic and iron removal plants for groundwater schemes have been considered for implementation in the Detailed Project Report (DPR). In addition, 883 numbers of schemes have been sanctioned in South 24 Parganas having a total value of Rs.6114.41 crores. It is also stated that 1144 Big dia tubewells are projected to be sunk under these sanctioned schemes.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation in its affidavit, November 23, 2023 stated that the municipal corporation has provided portable drinking to almost every part of the city free of arsenic. About 5 lakh premises have been provided with piped water which is about 98 per cent of the city’s population.