MUSCAT: The Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources (MRMWR) has said that citizens and residents must desist from digging wells for fresh water without a permit.

Speaking to Muscat Daily on condition of anonymity, a resident of Ma’abela said, “Unfortunately, my area isn’t connected to the piped water network, so I have to depend on tankers to get water several times a week. I’m considering digging a well without a permit.

“I have just started gardening which is expected to more than double my water consumption. If I go ahead with digging a well, I plan to share the water with my neighbours so that they don’t criticise me.”

Javed Iqbal, administration manager, Ali bin Saayid al Shibli Trading Co said that his firm does not entertain requests from people who do not have a permit. “We are sometimes approached by people who want us to dig wells without a permit which we flatly refuse. “Also, each permit allows a well to be dug up to a certain depth. Some of our customers insist we dig deeper, but we ask them for authorisation before doing so.”

Iqbal said the demand for illegal digging could have created a market. “There are people out there who are willing to work illegally when reputed companies decline a job.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, a labourer who admits to digging wells without a permit, said, “I work for RO12 a day.

“Many people in the northern parts of Muscat are on the lookout for people who can dig illegal wells. I help them rent the equipment and either operate it or supervise the job for them. “I am happy to get work whether it’s digging wells, painting, electrical, or plumbing jobs. I would have to go hungry if I insist on getting permission from authorities.”

When asked about the action taken against violators, a MRMWR official said, “When we come across an illegal water well, we take action by giving the landowner two weeks to plug it. If the land owner fails to comply, the case is taken to court for trial. We urge all citizens and residents to think of the big picture before digging without a permit.

“The user ends up dipping into water reserves and if the well is dug close to the sea, there is every possibility of seawater seeping into fresh water aquifers. There is always the danger of water being contaminated by nearby septic tanks too.”