SC orders filling Katas Raj temple pond

ISLAMABAD –  The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Punjab government and Bestway Cement Factory to fill up Katas Raj temples pond within one week.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, heard suo motu of drying out of the Katas Raj Temples Complex pond.

According to a report, submitted before the apex court, the pre-historic fabled pond is said to be drying out because of a huge amount of water consumption in the nearby cement factories.

Reportedly, the factories are sucking water through more than 100 drill bores, which have severely reduced the subsoil water level.

The bench also ordered the concerned authorities to submit a comprehensive report over environmental impact of cement factories in Negative Zone B, in addition to details about installation of cement factories in the area.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed that the judiciary was an organ of the state and it would not step out of its constitutional jurisdiction but would intervene where it would find any negligence.

The chief justice said that verdicts were in the field wherein it was held that the state would be run collectively by the judiciary, legislature and executive.

Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Siddique-ul Farooq informed that the statues were removed from the temples on fears of reprisal attacks following the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India in 1992.

The court was informed that the said temples were under the control of Punjab Archaeology Department and no worship was taking place in the said temples.

The court was further informed that the Department of Archaeology was controlling the Katas Raj complex since 2006, adding that guidelines had been inscribed in the temples where worship was done.

During the course of the hearing, a female representative of Bestway Cement told the court that they had hired Babar Sattar as counsel for pleading the case but he could not reach, therefore, she sought some time.

The chief justice however, observed that as far as he knew, the Supreme Court had not yet granted liscense to Babar Sattar.

On court query, the representative also told the court that the factory’s head was in London, thus he also could not appear.

To another court query, the factory representative stated that the factory was using approximately 80,000 gallons of water per day.

At this, the chief justice asked as to who had given the right to the factory to use such a high quantity of underground water.

He added that the factory had caused huge damage to the environment of Chakwal District.

“Don’t make the lives of people more miserable on the excuses of exporting cement and contributing to the foreign reserves,” the chief justice remarked, while addressing the representative.

During the hearing, assistant advocate-general of Punjab informed the court that the Bestway factory had illegally installed a turbine, which was sucking huge quantity of underground water.

The court then directed that the illegal turbine be closed down immediately and compliance report be submitted.

The court also directed that a comprehensive report on the factories’ impact on the environment in Zone B be submitted by next hearing.

The chief justice said that the cement factories would not be allowed to operate at the cost of people’s health.

“There will be no compromise on the environment as well as the condition of Katas Raj temples,” the chief justice said.

Salman Akram Raja, counsel for DG Khan Cement plant, however stated that his client was producing the permitted quantity of the product, thus was not the part of the problem.

The chief justice said that whenever he used the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway, he turns sad looking at the destruction of natural beauty, adding that the mountains were still being destroyed by being dug up on various pretexts.

The Bestway Cement factory representative, however, said that the mountains along the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway were not dug up or destroyed by the factory.

The chief justice observed that the Potohar plateau was already facing water scarcity, as the underground water level was very low.

One Raja Waseem, an applicant in the instant case, submitted before the court that Punjab government had allotted mountains and ancestral graveyards to owners of cement factories.

He further said that no government functionary took measure to address his complaint in the matter; however, the bench asked him to file details of his concerns during the next date of hearing.

The case was adjourned till second week of January.


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