ISLAMABAD: The exploitation of water resources allegedly by different mineral water companies caught the attention on Friday of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar who sought complete information and data on extraction of water by these business ventures.

Taking up the matter on a suo motu basis, the chief justice ordered Additional Attorney General Nayyar Abbas Rizvi, advocate generals for the provinces and officials of the departments concerned to attend the proceedings at the Supreme Court’s Lahore registry on Saturday with complete information.

The issue cropped up during the hearing of a case related to drying up of the Katas Raj pond due to consumption of a huge amount of water by nearby cement factories that are sucking water through drill bores, severely reducing subsoil water level.

The chief justice noted that water had become a very precious commodity, but bottled water companies were selling their produce at exorbitant prices by extracting water from subsoil free of cost. He said the Supreme Court would take all possible steps to preserve water in the country, adding that he would personally visit Katas Raj on his way to Lahore to witness himself the state of the pond.

Says Supreme Court will take all steps to preserve water

Later, the chief justice paid a visit to Katas Raj and issued instructions on the spot.

The apex court had taken the suo motu notice in November last year on reports that water level in the pond of Shri Katas Raj temple — considered to be the second most sacred shrine in the Hindu religion — was fast depleting.

The temple is in the salt range which is rich in mineral deposits but plays host to four cement plants. The origin of the site dates back to 600AD. The complex of the temple is built around the water pond which, according to Hindu mythology, finds its origin from Katak Shah (raining eyes in the Sanskrit language). The Hindu community believes that the famous pond at the Katas Raj temple was formed by the tears of Shiva who wept uncontrollably over the loss of his wife Sati.

One of the four cement factories is situated merely two kilometres from the Katas Raj temple. Since there is no other major source of water, the industries in the area mainly rely on subsoil water for their operational requirements.

During the proceedings, AAG Abbasi requested the court to consider examining the quality of water being supplied by mineral water companies to also determine whether it was fit for human consumption or not.

The chief justice also sum­m­oned complete det­ails of two cement factories situated near the new international airport at Fateh Jang and at Taxila.

The court was informed that the Punjab government had worked out a formula for usage of subsoil water by the cement factories near Katas Raj in Chakwal.

The court, however, observed that after a few weeks the cement factories would not be able to use the subsoil water and, therefore, they should arrange some alternative arrangements.

The court said that if the water was not conserved properly, it might become more expensive than gold, oil and gas one day. “Water should not be used so excessively,” the court said, adding that nations always conserved their water resources.

The chief justice regretted that the total cess on water in Punjab was Rs2 billion, but the provincial government managed to recover less than Rs1bn.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial observed that the irrigation system in Pakistan was very old and a large quantity of water was wasted due to sewerage and leakage.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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