The Supreme Court on Tuesday wrapped up the Katas Raj suo motu case after the cement factories put forward a proposal that they would find an alternative water source and pay for the water they use until then.
The top court, in November last year, had taken notice of reports that the pond in the Katas Raj temple complex was drying up because cement factories nearby were drawing a large amount of water through a number of sub-soil wells.
A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, had heard the case. During earlier proceedings, the court had ordered the federal and Punjab governments to form a special committee of experts to save the fabled Hindu temple.
On Tuesday, Bestway Cement and DG Khan Cement proposed that they would submit Rs2bn — Rs1.5bn by Bestway, 0.5bn by DG Khan — as security until they are able to find an alternate source of water. They said they would build a small dam in the area, the outflow of which will be maintained in a way that the pond at Katas Raj is not adversely affected. They also proposed to pay the Punjab government for the water that they use until then.
The CJP noted that the cement factories would also have to improve their smoke exhaust systems keeping in view global standards. "If needed, the court will have the smoke exhaust system checked," he said.
He said that the factories should not cause pollution in the area and must ensure the pond in Katas Raj temple is filled.
He also noted that the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) — responsible for maintenance of religious properties and worship places of Hindus and Sikhs — should be from a minority group.
The court had, earlier this year, dismissed PML-N veteran Siddiqul Farooq from his ETPB chairmanship.
"It is our responsibility to take care of the worship places of minorities," the chief justice said.
The CJP said that the pond should be filled through natural means while Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that the water levels in the area would rise once water pumps at the factories are shut down.
Additional Advocate General Asma Hamid informed the court that until alternate arrangements for water provision are made, the Punjab government would charge the factories for water usage, the tariff for which is yet to be decided.
The factories are currently using water from a nearby river and underground sources.
The court then wrapped up the case. It has yet to pass an order or formally accept the factories' proposal.
The Katas Raj temple in Chakwal is one of the holiest sites in Hindu mythology. Legend has it that, after the death of his wife Sati, Lord Shiva cried so inconsolably that his tears formed a pond that came to be known as the Katas Raj pond. Around this pond, temples were built dedicated to the Hindu dieties Shiva, Ram and Hanuman.