ISLAMABAD: In April 2018, the Supreme Court ordered action against illegal constructions along the Korang Nullah in Banigala, which are impeding its flow and contributing to pollution in Rawal Lake, and sought a report within two weeks. Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is currently hearing a suo motu on unchecked construction in Banigala and sewage polluting Rawal Lake.

Local say the report on encroachments- prepared by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and revenue department of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) along with the Survey General of Pakistan – has only concentrated on the last two kilometres of the 17km long Korang drain. SC has asked for a survey of the entire nullah.

“If the objective is to prevent pollution of the Korang Nullah and stop further construction on its banks, how will it be achieved by just singling out a few properties at the tail end of the nullah,” asks resident Tariq Afridi, whose own home is one of the last properties on the Korang – though not on its bed – before it meets Rawal Lake which is threatened with demolition.

Report is based on last 2km of 17km drain, leaving out poultry farms, housing societies, residents say

He says he has constructed septic tanks and ensures no waste from his home is dumped into the Korang. He says he has a proper registry for his property that was approved by CDA/ICT whereas there are dozens of illegal settlements further upstream whose owners do not even have valid property documents.

The last kilometre of the Korang Nullah, which feeds Rawal Lake, is a green, sparsely populated area and there are no visible obstructions to the nullah.

Further up the Korang, there are many houses built on the riverbed itself that have built retaining walls to block its flow and are dumping their sewage into it, according to Tahir Dhindsa, a local who lives further upstream in Phulgran, below Murree.

“I think you have to look into it on a case-to-case basis. Every property is different.”

“There is no point in picking and choosing the properties to be demolished. If the objective is to save the Korang and Rawal Lake from pollution then all the illegal encroachments must be removed,” said Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Director General Farzana Altaf Shah.

Ms Shah says most of these properties are dumping their sewage into the Korang others are blocking its flow. She says she contributed to the survey of the Korang when it enters the ICT and Banigala using satellite imagery.

“We worked with CDA, and also tested the water quality in Korang Nullah and Rawal Lake for the Supreme Court”.

She prepared a drone documentary, which she says covered the entire Korang Nullah and Rawal Lake area, which was shown to the chief justice.

The DG admits that further upstream there are around a 100 poultry farms built near the Korang. Then there are large housing societies like Lake View Lanes and Bahria Town’s Golf City, constructed on the banks of Korang Nullah. However, she says that at least Bahria Town’s Golf City has its own sewage treatment plant.

Mr Afridi, who is now a party to the court case, says all this has not been brought to the notice of the chief justice during the court hearings. The next SC hearing is due on July 9.

The chief of the Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad says as far as he knows the entire Korang Nullah has been surveyed.

Chief Metropolitan Officer Syed Najaf Iqbal said: “Both an aerial and satellite survey of Korang has been done. ICT is doing the demarcation of the Korang Nullah and CDA will be in charge of removing the encroachments. Construction on the riverbed will be removed.”

In the mean time, the chief justice has ordered all those affected around Korang Nullah to send their cases to the federal ombudsperson.

The rules say that every 25 years a new Masavi- or rough plan of river- is to be made, yet CDA/ICT is still referring to the old one from 1956.

The Korang River has since then changed its course, explains another resident.

“They are using that to justify the demolition of our homes. But we are not blocking the river or dumping waste into the Korang”.

The residents are requesting the chief justice to come to the site to see for himself where the problem lies and devise the best way to safeguard the Korang Nullah.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018



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