Blanket ban on extraction of ground water in Noida impractical
Dec 14, 2013
Source : The Times of India


DELHI: The complete ban on extraction of ground water, especially in Noida-Greater Noida regions by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has come as a major impediment for construction firms.

Several real estate developers are now planning to buy water from development authorities for their construction activity, a cost that is bound to be passed on to homebuyers, which will further escalate the prices of residential units.

It is imperative for the NGT to relook its blanket ban and consider the extraction of ground water, at least in those areas where water is found barely 2-4 metres from the ground level.

Rakesh Yadav, MD of Antriksh Group, says: “As per the guidelines of Central Ground Water Board, the first layer of ground water is not potable in regions like Noida, Greater Noida, and the Yamuna zones. This means it is not fit for drinking. Most of the builders have already taken environmental clearance for their projects, in which case the permission from the ground water board for extracting or dewatering is more than sufficient. The developing sectors of Noida-Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway fall between two rivers—Yamuna and Hindon—that’s why the water table in this area is very high. In our opinion this decision must be reconsidered on the above grounds.”

Manoj Gaur, MD of Gaursons India Ltd, says: “The complete ban on extraction of ground water in Noida, Greater Noida, and Yamuna City by the green tribunal is a very harsh decision as ground water in these areas is found only at 2-4 metres from the ground. To construct a highrise building it is imperative that we do deep excavation, often 10-20 metres from the ground level, and this calls for dewatering the plinth site first.”

After the ban on the use of ground water, developers and builders of these areas are procuring water from sewer treatment plants of the Noida authority located in Sector 50 and Sector 54 by paying Rs 5 per kilolitre; this cost would obviously pass on to homebuyers.

Also, the complete ban by NGT on construction of realty projects within a 10km radius of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary on the Delhi-Noida border, near Kalindi Kunj Barrage, has left real estate developers and investors worried as the pace of work on a number of real estate projects here is being affected due to non-availability of adequate water.

According to sources, more than 105 realty projects are being affected because of the NGT’s order. Most of the projects are located within a radius of 10km from the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. The NGT holds that construction at these realty projects poses a threat to the sanctuary.

Deepak Kapoor, director of Gulshan Homz, says: “Builders developers cannot afford to halt construction in owing to the absence of ground water. If water has to be purchased, it will push up prices of projects and buyers will have to bear the burden. We believe imposing a blanket ban extraction of ground water is not a solution to stop its depletion.”

A report says that around 2.5 core liters of water is required everyday for construction at realty projects, in and around the different locations of Noida and Greater Noida.

The NGT has also asked developers and builders with constructions over 20,000 sq metres to take environment clearance from the respective state environmental impact assessment authorities, as the court had directed that all ongoing realty projects should stop operations immediately.

The ban followed an affidavit filed by the chairman of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA). The tribunal had extended the ban on use of ground water for construction in Noida and Greater Noida stating that it was threatening the ground water levels. The tribunal issued show-cause notices to some major realty players for flouting the order banning use of groundwater. The ban imposed by the tribunal on drawing ground water for construction purposes has caused quite a stir with builders of 3,000 proposed housing units, stalling work in various sectors of Noida.

The NGT says that the underground water utilized for the purposes of construction hardly repercolates into the earth for the fact that it is a tree-free zone, has concrete base and the water largely is wasted as it flows into drains. It adds that the guidelines notified by the Central Ground Water Board have been violated with impunity.

But developers and builders contend that if the ban continues, they will have to bring water from other areas, which would add to the cost of construction. They say that they will have to pay for the water, apart from the transportation cost. The builders’ lobby has sent a budget to the Noida authority on the cost escalation if water from Yamuna is treated and used for construction.

Rama Raman, chairman and CEO of GNIDA, says: “We are already sorting out the problems through discussions with real estate developers. There should not be any scarcity of water for construction work as over 90 million litres are discharged daily from water recycling plants and sewage treatment plants. Developers and builders will be required to obtain NOCs from the Central Ground Water Board for the sanction of their project layout.”

Anil Sharma, president of Credai NCR and CMD of Amrapali, says: “We are coming up with a viable and realistic water harvesting plant, at a micro and macro level. Developers and builders have set up a large-capacity water treatment plant (WTP) and storage tanks at construction sites.

After the NGT’s direction, developers now procure water from the sewage-treatment plant of the Noida-Greater Noida authorities. The water is retreated in their own WTP to make it suitable for construction purpose. Arranging water this way leads to cost escalations.”

Getamber Anand, CMD of ATS Infrastructure Ltd, says: “While the industry respects the concerns of the NGT, it is important for the honorable tribunal to ascertain the intent behind the PILs. Today, the ground reality is that realtors are threatened with PILs by litigants if their unreasonable demands are not met. However, the industry stands by the NGT in preserving the environment and is complying with all norms of the MOEF.”

R K Arora, CMD of Supertech Ltd, says: “The government of Uttar Pradesh has to notify the area around Okhla Bird Sanctuary as eco-sensitive zone and once the notification comes about, constructions can be carried on as per Noida’s master plan.

The NGT has directed that no construction activity be undertaken without obtaining environmental clearances.”

Impact of the ban on extraction of ground water in Gurgaon: In July 2012, the Punjab and Haryana high court directed the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) not to issue new licenses to real estate developers in Gurgaon unless the developers give an undertaking that ground water would not be used for construction work.

Following the high court order, the Haryana Town and Country Planning Department issued show-cause notices to 52 developers who were allegedly extracting groundwater in violation of the court’s directive. The Haryana government’s ground water department points out that the water table has already sunk by nearly a metre during this season alone in Gurgaon, a business hub that has become a happening commercial and residential suburb of New Delhi. The annual rate of decline of the water table is four feet, according to the Central Ground Water Board. Gurgaon depends on Basai Canal for its water needs, which in turn gets water from the Western Yamuna Canal.

Cushman & Wakefield says in a report that NCR regions like Noida-Greater Noida, Gurgaon, and Faridabad are expected to see the highest demand across mid-range and high-end segments estimated at 7,70,000 units during 2013-2017, while the expected cumulative supply in the same period for these segments is expected to be around 6,00,000, a gap of around 22%.

Some of the expected demand in 2013-14 is expected to be met through the unsold inventory currently existing in the suburban and peripheral locations.

Going by past trends, the growth of population in the NCR has been steadily ahead of the housing supply and this trend will continue as more and more immigrant population is expected to settle here. Now, with various agencies intervening at every turn to stop construction work, the demand-supply gap in housing is only expected to rise.

The twin cities of Noida-Greater Noida, too, saw a marginal capital appreciation across various micromarkets during the review period.

The frequency (and quantum) of price revisions by developers, however, remained significantly reduced in this market.

The rental values remained largely stable across most micromarkets of Noida, in the premium as well as high-end segments. Group-housing or integrated-housing projects are gaining more momentum, rather than standalone plots, in the NCR region from Noida to Gurgaon.

Today, Noida is undergoing a major transformation. A place, which was previously known for its affordable and mid-segment housing projects, it has gradually converted into a place with ultra luxurious and world-class living housing projects. Apart from amenities, these new luxurious projects also aim at providing high-quality affordable housing for upper-middle class and the upper class. Several housing projects are being developed along the new sectors along the Noida Expressway, which offer state-of-the-art facilities and amenities. The ban on construction work badly impacts these realty projects.

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