The Supreme Court on Saturday clarified that it is not pushing for the construction of Kalabagh Dam, but is rather looking into how the water crisis in the country can be tackled.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, while hearing cases on water shortage and Kalabagh dam at SC's Karachi Registry, asked Zafar Mahmood, a former chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), what the alternative to the controversial project was as "four brothers do not agree over it".

Mahmood instead painted a dire picture of Pakistan's water woes, telling the apex court that climate change has increased incidence of floods in the country while glaciers are also melting faster than before. He claimed that underground water had also reached dangerous levels, especially in Quetta, where it would take 200 years for groundwater to be restored to safe levels.

He said that the city would become uninhabitable in the near future because of its water crisis.

He also said that the people need to be made aware of ways to conserve water and that the practice of dumping untreated industrial waste should also be curbed.

Holding all past governments responsible for "criminal negligence", the former Wapda chief said Pakistan was far behind India in building dams. He noted that India, which controls three rivers flowing into Pakistan, increases outflow of water towards Pakistan during floods.

The chief justice noted that despite being told by the court to take measures to address water crisis, the Punjab government had not done anything.

After a lawyer claimed all provinces were against the construction of Kalabagh dam, the chief justice said that no one should feel threatened by the apex court because it was not going to enforce its construction and was rather trying to find ways of dealing with the crisis.

"Yesterday when we asked Musharraf to return, that also threatened everyone. What threat could Pervez Musharraf possibly pose to anyone?" the chief justice asked, clarifying that no one should feel threatened by the former dictator's return to Pakistan and him facing the law.

He further noted that the capability of good lawmaking in the country had ended and asked Mahmood to present his suggestions which could be forwarded to the parliament after being drafted into a law through the Law and Justice Commission.

He said that the court had decided to focus on the water crisis and the Law and Justice Commission would hold a seminar on the issue after Eidul Fitr to gather suggestions to deal with it.

Meanwhile, Justice Faisal Arab questioned why the dams which are not controversial have also not been built.

Justice Nisar, in Thursday's hearing of the same cases in Islamabad, had noted that consensus should be developed over Kalabagh and that he would want to hear reservations of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over it.

Water commission to continue work until Jan 2019

The apex court extended the tenure of single member commission on water quality in Sindh until January 2019 after Shahab Osto, the petitioner who had moved the court over provision of contaminated water, claimed that progress was being made in the province because of the commission.

The chief justice also appreciated the Sindh government for progress on water projects and asked Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar to ensure that all storm water drains are cleared within one month.



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