ISLAMABAD  -  Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday urged the people to consume tap water after boiling it instead of consuming bottled water, adding mineral water companies dried up the country without paying for using underground water.

He also lamented that billions of gallons had been extracted by the companies without paying even in million rupees while the areas had been dried by extracting the water through turbines on leased land.

With these observations, the top court directed all the provincial governments to legislate for determining the rate on extraction of water for bottled water companies including carbonated drinks’ companies.

It further ruled that the charges had to be kept for the purpose of development of water resources which would be utilised only and exclusively for development of water resources in the country.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard the suo motu regarding selling of bottled water extracted from the ground without any charge and its fitness for human consumption.

The CJP observed that most mineral water companies were selling substandard water, adding that these companies had dried up Lahore and Sheikhupura.

Counsel for different companies Aitzaz Ahsan appeared before the bench and contended that the money was being spent on extracting underground water, purifying it and marketing it.

He also read a report regarding water purification and comparison of Pakistan with other developed countries using bottled water. However, the bench observed that the comparison of Pakistan with other countries was not appropriate in view of the water scarcity situation in the country.

The Chief Justice remarked that the mineral water companies had dried up underground water reserves and taps had been running dry. “Shut down the industry which is making the country barren,” he asserted.

Further, he remarked that if these companies wanted to continue operations then they should pay Rs1/litre to the government.

He further remarked that the level of underground water had reached 400 feet in Lahore and mineral water companies had dried up the provincial capital and Sheikhupura.

“We want to charge even if your industry comes to an end and also we will not allow these charges be borne by consumers,” he remarked.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the companies were extracting natural resource whose profit margin was more than Rs1 billion. He questioned why the companies were not paying amount to the government on extraction of raw material so that the government could reserve the amount for the development of water resources. 

“You have been paying nothing on extracting the raw material, the water,” observed Justice Ahsan.

He further pointed out the drinkable water being wasted on car washing station. “We have got the homework done on this issue as well,” chief justice hinted.

“We have to do something for this nation and this is what the spirit of this court is these days,” the chief justice observed, adding, “We have to make Pakistan in order.”

“Fraud has been committed by the companies till date by taking the water of public without paying anything and selling it to the public,’ the chief justice further observed.

He further lamented that none of the senior counsel of top court appeared in the case as amicus curie to assist the court on the issue adding that the fees are dearer to the counsels.

A counsel Advocate Zafar Iqbal Kalanuri produced his submissions stating that Nestle Pakistan Limited was occupying government land without any lease agreement and their allotment should be considered cancelled.  

It further contended that the construction on the land was without proper permissions from competent authorities and the construction being illegal could be sealed and demolished under 7-A of Sindh Building Control Ordinance (SBCO).

“After analysing three years average of the water utilisation figures it transpired that Nestle Water bottled approximately 60 per cent of the water extracted in production of bottled water.  Approximately 350 million litres of water annually is unaccounted for,” it stated.

He stated that the said company had three sites from where the water was being extracted, bottled and distributed. These sites include Port Qasim Karachi, I-10/3 Islamabad and one in Punjab.

“Nestle has illegally extracted 2.7 billion litres of water in last three years for their water business, we do not have figures for their beverages business,” the document stated.  

“Since water is sold more expensive than the (Manufactured Suggested Retail Price) MSRP, Government of Pakistan is losing hundreds of millions of rupees on sales tax,” it stated.

 

 

CJP advises people not to use bottled water

 

SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN