BOREWELL DRILLING & ITS POST EFFECTS IN TAMIL NADU
Author: Nardhana R Bhuvana
The term drilling of bore wells simply means that the ground is dug and drilled into a hole to extract waters that can found at the underground level. Apart from the extraction of water, the processof drilling bore wells is also being extensively utilized for the extraction of other natural resources of liquid nature like Petroleum or Natural Gas. It is also being done for the purposes such as for the exploration of minerals, to investigate geotechnical affairs, for assessing the environmental site, for measuring the temperature, for underground utilities and installations concerning geothermal purposes, to preserve and collect soil samples, and also to store unwanted substances at the underground level.
But there was a notable change regarding the drilling of bore wells. Many bore wells after a stage had eventually no longer been put to use and were simply abandoned. Such bore wells have proved to be quite dangerous, since it is abandoned, there is no awareness of the existence of such bore wells and also there is no one to monitor and warn people who are likely to loiter around and children, especially are prone to the risk of falling into it. Even though it has been nearly a decade since the origination of this problem had cropped up, unfortunately, rescue measures for people trapped in bore wells have not proved to be hundred percent effective. Sometimes, the areas where bore wells have been drilled are so remote that it is extremely tough to arrange for the help forces to arrive and sadly even before they manage to arrive towards the spot, the poor victim already gets succumbed to death.
Measures regarding the drilling of bore wells can be dated back to February 2009. At that time, a citizen had written a letter addressing the Former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, expressing his concerns regarding the deaths of children falling in bore wells and he sought relief for the same. The letter was later on taken up as a Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation. Eventually, a course of action was taken for the same and on February 11, 2010, the Coram consisting of a three-judge bench along with the Chief Justice of India, comprising Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice C.K. Prasad, outlined safety measures regarding the same to be followed by all the State Governments. On August 6, 2010, former Chief Justice of India, S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar disposed of the Suo Moto PIL passed in February 2010 and had to an extent modified the details, the key feature stating that any landowner who has plans to sink his bore well should inform the concerned Government officials about the same, minimum of 15 days prior in advance.
It was made strictly compulsory that bore well drilling agencies ought to be registered either under the District Administration or under any other Statutory Authority. It was also strictly ordered that care should be taken to ensure that signboards should be fixed and placed on the drilling sites, giving warning signs and also details regarding the agency name as well as the owner of the place. Most importantly, it was mandated that fencing should be done, preferably barbed wires to be used for the installation while the procedure of drilling is being done. The other measures that were highlighted under the guidelines passed by the Court are to cap the wells using nuts and bolts, to fill up mud pits and channels adequately once the work of drilling bore wells has been done and to ensure that the ground conditions are being restored to normal.
District Collectors were conferred with powers that enabled them to verify and monitor the locations and conditions of the bore wells. However, at present, in rural areas, monitoring is very well done by the Sarpanch and an executive from the Regional Agricultural Department, meanwhile in the urban areas a Junior Engineer and the Executive of the concerned department such as Municipal Corporation or Ground Water, Public Health, etc. Also at times whenever it is convenient, random inspections are encouraged and information gathered during such inspections is stored as data and is to it is the role of the District Collector or the Block Development Officer to ensure the maintenance of the same.
TN BOREWELL RULES:
In February 2015, the State Government of Tamil Nadu passed the Tamil Nadu Municipalities (Regulation of Sinking of wells and Safety Measures) Rules, 2015. Under this, guidelines were issued and highlighted for the Panchayats to ensure the rules lay down by Supreme Court to ensure the safety of people especially children have duly complied accordingly. In this, additionally, it was clearly stated that a platform made of either concrete or cement is to be built around the casing of the well and the measurements should be 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.6 m and it is also to be ensured that both above and below the ground level it should be 0.3 m. The drilling pit or the well is to be properly covered at the time of recess.
TN BOREWELL MISHAP:
In spite of all this, the measures have only stayed in pen and paper form. Cases of children getting trapped are still sadly being reported and the latest one happened during October 2019, wherein a three-year-old named Sujith Wilson accidentally fell down and was trapped in a bore well situated in a farm which has not been used for ages. Struggling in it for 72 hours, eventually, the poor boy’s body was retrieved in a decomposed form of state. It was after this only for a while, State Governments took it seriously and worked on closing unused bore wells at Panchayats and so far 1,47,786 defunct bore wells are sealed. More measures have to be taken to ensure that the rules don’t stay just inscribed by the pen in the paper. Actions are required and Rescue areas are to be set up in a radius of 2 Km. The Government must work on further enhancing effective and efficient rescue measures because every life is too precious to let it ebb away down too soon.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/years-ago-tamil-nadu-government-mandated-sealing-unused-borewells/article29815265.ece https://www.theweek.in/wire-updates/national/2019/10/28/mds12-tn-borewells-rules.html https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/what-the-rules-require/article29816866.ece