KARACHI - The Supreme Court has said it is not pushing for the construction of controversial Kalabagh Dam but rather trying to seek solutions to country’s water crisis.

Hearing cases on water shortage and Kalabagh dam at SC’s Karachi Registry on Saturday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar asked former Wapda chairman Zafar Mahmood about alternatives to the mega project observing that the “four brothers do not agree over it”.

The CJP in Thursday’s hearing of the same cases in Islamabad had noted that consensus should be developed over Kalabagh and that he would want to hear reservations of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over it.

But on Saturday when a lawyer, Advocate Mujeeb Peerzada, claimed all provinces were against the construction of Kalabagh dam , Justice Nisar said that no one should feel threatened by the apex court because it was not going to force its construction and was rather trying to find ways of dealing with the crisis.

“[The other day] when we asked Musharraf to return, that too threatened everyone. What threat could Pervez Musharraf possibly pose to anyone?” the chief justice asked.

He was alluding to a statement by deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif who criticised court’s granting the former military dictator conditional permission to file nomination papers for the upcoming general elections.

Justice Nisar further said that the former president should return to Pakistan and face the law. No one should feel threatened by his return to Pakistan, he added.

Grave water situation

Earlier, former chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), Zafar Mahmood painted a dire picture of Pakistan’s water woes, telling the apex court that climate change has increased incidence of floods in the country while glaciers are also melting faster than before.

He claimed that underground water had also reached dangerous levels, especially in Quetta, where it would take 200 years for groundwater to be restored to safe levels. He said that the city would become uninhabitable in the near future because of its water crisis.

Zafar also said that the people need to be made aware of ways to conserve water and that the practice of dumping untreated industrial waste should also be curbed.

He said that the people were not well aware about Kalabagh Dam issue and he informed the court that he resigned from Wapda after a dispute arose over his statement about this project.

Holding all past governments responsible for “criminal negligence”, the former Wapda chief said Pakistan was far behind India in building dams and he termed the Indus Water Treaty a risk to the country.

He noted that India, which controls three rivers flowing into Pakistan, increases outflow of water towards Pakistan during floods.

The chief justice noted that despite being told by the court to take measures to address water crisis, the Punjab government had not done anything.

Justice Faisal Arab questioned why the dams which are not controversial have also not been built.

The CJP made it clear that more dams must be constructed in the country, and if consensus could not be reached on Kalabagh Dam then alternate schemes should be launched to tackle the water crisis. The court also sought opinion of water experts and jurists on the matter.

He further noted that the capability of good lawmaking in the country had ended and asked Zafar Mahmood to present his suggestions which could be forwarded to the parliament after being drafted into a law through the Law and Justice Commission.

He said that the court had decided to focus on the water crisis and the Law and Justice Commission would hold a seminar on the issue after Eidul Fitr to gather suggestions to deal with it.

 

Meanwhile, the apex court extended the tenure of single member commission on water quality in Sindh until January 2019 after Shahab Osto, the petitioner who had moved the court over provision of contaminated water, claimed that progress was being made in the province because of the commission.

The chief justice appreciated the Sindh government for progress on water projects and asked Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar to ensure that all storm water drains are cleared within one month.