ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the government to form a committee to probe the issue of drying of Katas Raj temple pond and adjourned hearing of the suo motu notice case till November 30th.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the suo motu case taken up on the basis of media reports that the Katas Raj temple complex pond was drying up because cement factories nearby were drawing a large amount of water through a number of sub-soil wells, severely reducing the water table in the general area.
The court was informed that almost every home in Katas Waulah and Choa Saidan Shah, two settlements near the temple, draws water through bored wells due to the absence of a proper water supply network.
The unchecked plantation of eucalyptus saplings in the region has compounded the problem, the apex court was told.
The Punjab government and a District Coordination Officer submitted reports on the matter.
The Additional Advocate General said that water usage of a cement factory operating in the area is greater than the entire population of the City of Chakwal.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that this temple is not just a place of cultural significance for the Hindu community, but also a part of our national heritage. "I want a solution to this problem," he added.
The CJP ordered the Advocate General Punjab to establish a high-level Committee to probe the matter and decided to issue a notice to the cement factory.
"If necessary, we will even summon all four Chief Secretaries and the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary," he said, adding, that experts would need to be taken on board.
The CJP stressed the importance of protecting the rights of minority communities.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf, who was earlier absent from court, arrived after a short break in the hearing following CJP Nisar's dissatisfaction over his absence.
Ausaf was directed to form a Committee on the matter and become an assistant to its members. The CJP also suggested that an ordinary citizen of Chakwal, Gen (Retd) Safdar, who often raises his voice about the issue, be included in the Committee."Our goal is to find a solution to the matter of how water can be provided," CJP Saqib Nisar remarked.
"If we need to close down 10 tube-wells or halt the water consumption of the factories, we will do it," he added.
The Chief Justice lamented that the cement factories appeared to have cut away more than half the mountains in the area.
He stressed that the court was not against the setting up of factories, but they should be located in places that do not cause inconvenience to ordinary citizens. "It is unacceptable to live without access to clean water or air," the CJP remarked.