Payment of water charges binding on cement factories, SC told

Published November 19, 2020
The information was given to the court during the hearing of a suo motu case about the drying up of Katas Raj pond, regarded as sacred by Hindus. — File photo
The information was given to the court during the hearing of a suo motu case about the drying up of Katas Raj pond, regarded as sacred by Hindus. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday that Jhelum’s defunct district council had levied water conservancy charges on cement factories and heavy industrial units.

According to a report furnished by Additional Advocate General Chaudhry Faisal Hussain on behalf of the deputy commissioner of Jhelum, the defunct district council had installed water meters at the three water sources of Gharibwal Cement Factory, Dandot Cement Factory and Best Way Cement Company to assess the commercial use by the units.

The information was given to the court during the hearing of a suo motu case about the drying up of Katas Raj pond, regarded as sacred by Hindus.

On Nov 6, the Supreme Court had ordered the Punjab government to submit a report showing updated data regarding amounts generated by way of water charges for industrial and domestic users.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on extraction of underground water by cement factories.

Court hears case about drying up of Katas Raj pond

The fresh report explained that water meters were installed in these industrial units, but the deduction for domestic use could not be calculated as the domestic rate had not been finalised yet by Punjab’s local government department.

The report explained that the management of Gharibwal cement factory had developed a water source at Pind Dadan Khan, about 20 kilometres from the plant.

The water is brought through pipelines from the source to the factory whereas the defunct district council had installed water meters at the source to assess the extent of commercial usage and a small water meter inside the factory to assess domestic use.

The report said the Gharibwal factory had paid nothing to the district council on account of water conservancy charges due to a stay order given by the Lahore High Court on Nov 26, 2018.

An amount of Rs590 million is outstanding against the factory for services utilised between May 2018 and Oct 2020.

Likewise, Dandot Cement Factory has paid Rs100 million, against Rs109 million, from May 2018 to Oct 2019 as water conservancy charges. The factory’s water source is a natural spring. The water is first accumulated in two ponds and then supplied through steel pipelines to the factory.

Due to non-payment of dues, the water connection was disconnected on Nov 1 last year. The factory has been shut down since November last year on account of internal issues like change of management and payments to labourers.

About the Bestway Cement Factory at Choa Sayden Shah, the report said the factory had started extraction of water through tube-wells after getting approval from Jhelum’s defunct district council.

The factory has already paid the entire dues of Rs28.2 million, but has stopped extracting water since May last year. The factory has applied for extraction of water to Pind Dadan Khan council.

Minorities’ places of worship

During the Supreme Court hearing, the Pakistan Hindu Council’s chairman and member of National Assembly, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, regretted that not a single deity was available at the Ram Chandar temple as well as at the temple inside Katas Raj.

There are 1,221 Hindu temples and 589 Gurdwaras in the country while 15,849 acres of land belonging to the Hindu community was in possession of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), Mr Vankwani said. But only 31 temples and Gurdwaras were functional currently.

Since Katas Raj temple has no permanent worshipper, a worshipper has to be brought all the way from Sukkur whenever needed.

The court ordered the ETPB chairman to submit a report about minorities during the next hearing.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2020

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