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An End to the Days of "Drill First, Ask Questions Later"?
A popular way to deal with dysfunctional urban services in India – assuming you have the money – is to opt out. You buy a diesel generator. You drill a well. You live and work well outside the city center to avoid the traffic. . . at least until the city you left behind swallows you up. Or, in the case of Gurgaon, a high-end suburb of Delhi, the water runs out.
Gurgaon's water table has been dropping by over a meter a year. Most of the natural lakes in the region are gone. The monsoon has been disappointing this year, so many residents are now relying on water tankers to truck in water. Such residents, who bought "villas" on "sprawling greens" in a region with no surface water, are rightly (if somewhat ironically) alarmed.
And they just scored a win in court. The State high court just prevented the local development authority from issuing new development permits if the developers cannot prove they won't use groundwater in the construction.
While the decision has rightly been considered a major environmental win, it also has its limitations. The goal of the suit is to manage the short-term impacts of construction, not the long-term impacts of building Southern California in Northern India. That being said, it suggests that the while the sun may not be setting on the Wild West days of Indian real estate development, it's at least starting to feel like midafternoon.
Thanks to Rachel Proctor May