ISLAMABAD  -  Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar Monday took notice of the acute shortage of water and lack of supply throughout the country and decided to hear all the pending cases pertaining to water resources on priority basis.

The top court has fixed the matter with the regard to the water crisis at principal seat in Islamabad and subsequently at respective branch registries of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.

The matter regarding scarcity of water supply in Islamabad has been fixed for hearing on June 7. The top court has also issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP), advocate general, Islamabad, CADD secretary, Islamabad mayor, chief commissioner and Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman.

Prior to the notice, the top court observed construction of dams had never been a priority of any political party.

During the course of hearing of a petition regarding environmental hazards, the alarming situation of climate change and the shortage of water due to lack of dams in the country, Justice Nisar, while heading a three-judge bench, observed, “One of the priorities of the Supreme Court shall be water.”

The bench also expressed its concerns over the construction of Kishanganga Dam by India, stating the situation had become like a “water bomb” for the country.

The chief justice observed water in Neelum-Jhelum River had been dried up by the construction of Kishanganga Dam in India.

He further observed the current state of water was a matter of serious nature as it was linked with the existence of the country.

He further observed the non-provision of water to future generations would mean that they have been given nothing. The bench said it will have to examine within the purview of law as to what could be done for the future generation in this regard.

Petitioner Barrister Zafarullah contended before the bench that environment was being increasingly polluted with each passing day and centres for monitoring pollution had been shut down. The chief justice observed the court would hear the matters regarding water resources and construction of dams together.

Barrister Zafar informed the court that the country was facing the shortage of water and the issue would be acuter in the coming days in case new reservoirs were not constructed. He said at the moment holding of the elections was important, but the issue of water shortage was more important. The chief justice remarked no issue was more important than water shortage. Barrister Zafar said 20 percent of the country’s progress depended on water.

Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, a member of the bench, observed political parties had ignored such an important issue.

The chief justice seconded his opinion, stating the issue was not the part of manifestos of any political party.

The petitioner contended he had been fighting the legal battle for the last 20 years, seeking construction of dams, including Kalabagh Dam.

Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel directed Barrister Zafar to also study report regarding Kalabagh Dam which was prepared by former Water and Power Development Authority chairman Zafar Mehmood.

In 2016, Mehmood had resigned from the post of Wapda chairman as the Prime Minister Office reportedly was not happy with him because of his stance on the Kalabagh Dam project and the delay in the execution of the 1,410 megawatts Tarbela-4 extension hydroelectric project.

The top court also summoned the former Wapda chairman and expert on water issues, Mehmood, for assistance on the issue of Kalabagh Dam on June 9 at the Karachi Registry.

The petitioner said, “India has already stopped all waters of the rivers by building several dams on their side, but Pakistan has so far built only two dams, Mangla and Tarbela. Unfortunately, Pakistan has suffered due to the provincial strife and local politics and we have not built Kalabagh Dam due to unwanted politics. There are so many options, such as water trading, cost-sharing arrangement, water-sharing of this lingering dispute and diversion of water to the non-basin area, so on and so forth, and none was considered which should have been considered.”

It further said India, sensing the need to resolve the future water disputes among different states, has set a mechanism for 14 major rivers.

“A recent disagreement over the use of the Yamuna River among the states of Delhi, Haryana, and Utter Pradesh was resolved by the three chief ministers and the federal government. Unfortunately, in Pakistan provinces are not inclined to invest in water resources management,” the petitioner said.

“Independent power producers are making billions of rupees and the government is fleecing its own people by selling energy at Rs 18 to Rs 20 per unit whereas hydel energy can be produced at a cost of Rs 2 per unit. There are certain powerful persons who are making money out of these deals. Energy is the backbone of any economy,” the petition stated.

It said another threat was from India which was already in exclusive use of three western rivers, Sutlej, Bias and Ravi, might stop all the flows of eastern rivers.

“The harsh effects on the people from the current drought as in Sindh’s Tharparkar district show what could happen in other parts of Pakistan as climate change accelerates. It is not an accident that four of sustainable development goals are related to the environment, if those issues are not dealt with, it will not be possible to meet other goals – reduction of poverty, reduced inequality, peaceful and inclusive societies, access to energy, health, education and more.”

Meanwhile, Justice Nisar also took notice of the incidents of fire at Margalla Hills posing serious threats to the forest, wildlife and environment in general.

 

Notices to the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP), advocate general, Islamabad, CADD secretary, the capital mayor, chief commissioner and the CDA chairman have been issued and the matter has been fixed for hearing on June 7.

 

 

Dealing with water crisis SC’s priority: CJP

 

SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN