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The Act came into force on July 1, 2002 with an objective of promoting waste conservation and tree cover and regulating the exploitation and use of ground and surface water for protection and conservation of water sources, land and environment and matter connected therewith.

The Act has a clear-cut section on definition of various terms used. The term 'over exploited basin' means a ground water basin sop declared by the Authority on the advise of the technical expert who considers the quantum and pattern of rainfall, degree of extraction of ground water and any other relevant factor while advising the Authority.

'Preservation of trees' includes planting of new trees and transplanting trees to other sites including protection measures such as fence tree guards etc. 'To fell a tree' includes burning, cutting, debarking, girdling and release of harmful chemical and such other potations, which may damage any part of the tree guards etc.

The Act under Sec. 3 establishes the Water, Land and Tree Authority with designated Officer, who shall administer the provisions of the Act. The members of the Authority shall consist of the Minister of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development as the ex-officio chairperson along with three MLAs, nominated by the Government of whom one shall be from the main opposition party.

The Chief Secretary to the Government shall be the Vice Chairperson with the Secretary to Agriculture, Irrigation, Science and Technology as ex-officio members. Interestingly the Act brings three professors from Life Science, Engineering and Technology from the Universities as members. The Authority shall also have as members three experts from soil conservation and economics and not exceeding five members who shall possess expertise in natural resource management either of them could be from SC and ST or women.

The Authority shall have functions, for which it may appoint officers and servants. The functions are to:

a) promote water conservation and enhancement of tree cover in the State.
b) Regulate the exploitation of ground and surface water
c) Make regulations for the functioning of authorities at the District and Mandal Level
d) Advise the Government on legislative and administrative and economic measures, from time to time, as incentives or disincentives relating to taxes, levies, fee or other charges to promote conservation of natural resources.
e) To advise on strengthening Public Participation in Conservation of Natural Resources

The Authority may, if it deems fit delegate any of its powers to the local bodies.

Groundwater Protection Measures:
All ground water resources in the State shall be regulated by the authority. All owners of well/water bodies shall get themselves registered under the authority. The designated officer, with the approval of the Authority may prohibit water pumping on such area, likely to cause damage to the ground water level -for a period of six months after which review may be extended for a further period of not more than six months at a time. The Authority may also direct the stoppage of collecting electricity bills or taxes, during that period when such pumping of water was disallowed. No person shall sink any well within 250 metres of an area of public drinking water sources. Such wells shall not include those wells, which draw water from hand pumps. Such sinking of wells must take prior permission of the Authority. Unless otherwise provided for the Andhra Pradesh Electricity Board could not grant power supply, if it deems that such wells would adversely affect public drinking water sources.

The Authority may declare a particular water basin as over exploited area and may impose restriction on sinking new wells for six months. The Authority may frame guidelines for management of water in these scarcity areas. This guideline could stipulate the number of wells in the areas, the depth of the well and distance between the two adjoining wells. The Authority is empowered even to ban the extraction of water from wells for commercial, industrial and irrigation use for six months based on the advice of the Technical Committee. In all these, irrigation and standing crops shall be given priority. The Authority may also give a reasonable opportunity of hearing to the parties affected. For the above purpose the designated authority shall have the power of entry and inspection, including taking samples survey etc.

Every Rig owner shall register his machinery and maintain a register of this work. If it appears to the Authority that any person is contravening this provision of the Act, it may close down his well either temporarily or permanently. If close down permanently, the owner shall be paid compensation on market value based on acquired land under the Land Acquisition CT, 1894.

Surface Water Protection Measures: The Act stresses on the optimum utilization of water in the Irrigation sector. To this end it may direct the occupier of any land to modify the cropping pattern to suit the water quality and availability. A social effort is also made in the Act for the conservation, preservation of lakes, ponds and tanks, permanent demarcation of area around these wetlands and obligations to remove encroachments, while making efforts to rejuvenate the aesthetic beauty of these tanks. The Authority may also frame guidelines for sand mining in an environmentally friendly manner.

Trees: The Act asks Municipal bodies to have compulsory tree plantation as an essential part of town planning. Felling of trees or branches is not permitted without prior permission and if done shall be immediately compensated by planning not less than two seedlings. Tree plantation should also be encouraged in schools, colleges, government premises, roads, public departments and premises. All agricultural landowners except small and marginal and wetland owner shall plant trees up to 5 per cent of their land holdings and permission shall not be given for felling unless this limit is maintained. For calculation of this 5%, fruit bearing horticultural crops shall be included. Any aggrieved individual may appeal against the order decision of the authority within 30 days of the receipt of such orders. 'Contravention' of any provision of the Act would invite fine from one thousand to five thousand rupees. His would include even abetment. If any person or group pollutes, obstruct, encroaches, damages any public water body or resource, s/he/they shall be punished with imprisonment upto six months and fine up to Rs. 50,000.

The Authority shall also have the power of seizure and confiscation after a notice is given of such intention. The Act repeals the A.P. Ground Water Act 1996. is laudable as it covers Prevention and Conservation of Natural Resources. The Act is clearly sensitive in regulating ground water, where it regulates all extraction except those for drinking purpose. The Act also encourages public participation in resources management and in the long run shall show results. The Act has less 'command and control' regime and looks at better utilization and equitable distribution of resources among all.

Andhra Pradesh water, land and trees Act, 2002
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