LAHORE, April 12: Taking up its first case involving an environmental issue, a Lahore High Court “Green Bench” comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah sought appearance of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) officers concerned to explain alleged disposal of wastewater into the Ravi.
LHC Chief Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had on April 5 last constituted ‘Green Benches’ in the high court as well as ‘Green Courts’ at districts level to hear cases relating to environmental issues or interest litigation.
The Pakistan Environmental Law Association and the Lahore Conservation Society challenged the alleged act by filing a petition through Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam.
Petitioners submitted that the Ravi was a perennial river and was the smallest of the five main eastern rivers of the Indus. They said the Ravi was the most polluted river in Pakistan and one of the most polluted in the world.
They said the river received wastewater at points including pumping stations of Shadbagh, Shahdara, Main Outfall Road, Babu Sabu (Gulshan Ravi), Multan Road, Deg Nullah and Hadiara Drain.
The petitioners said in 2002 the volume of the sewage discharged into the river was 12.74 cubic meter per second with wastewater load of 22 cubic meter per second. They contended that by year 2017, with population and industrial activity increasing in Lahore, the sewage level could be as high as 35 cubic meter per second.
They said the problem of environmental pollution caused by toxic metals had begun to cause concerns in more areas where water for irrigation was becoming scarce and people were using the drain water for the purpose.
“The use of polluted water increases the value of conductivity in ground water and exceeds the acceptable limits of National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS). As a result, it degrades the environment as well as becomes the cause of water-borne diseases,” they pointed out in the petition.
The petitioners sought a declaration from the court that access to clean water was a part of the fundamental rights. They also asked the court to direct the departments concerned to fulfill their responsibility and provide sewage treatment facility that would bring the wastewater discharges into the Ravi to a halt.
The Green Bench adjourned further hearing till April 27.