Unfit for human consumption: SC forms commission to investigate drinking water in Sindh

Hears petition on govt’s failure to provide clean water, safe environment to people

Our Correspondent December 27, 2016

KARACHI: Casting doubts over the performance of the second consecutive Pakistan Peoples Party-led government in Sindh, the Supreme Court (SC) constituted on Tuesday a judicial commission to probe allegations of the poor state of clean drinking water supply to the people and deteriorating sanitation conditions in the province.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, asked the Sindh High Court's (SHC) chief justice to nominate a serving high court judge to head the commission within one week.

Also comprising Justice Mushir Alam as its member, the bench issued these directives on a petition seeking provision of clean drinking water and safe environment to the people of Sindh at the SC's Karachi Registry.

Advocate Shahab Usto, who filed the petition, had taken the provincial chief secretary, local government and finance secretaries and North Sindh Urban Services Corporation (NSUSC) director-general to court over the failure of the organisation to provide basic necessities in eight districts of the province.

Claiming to be a permanent resident of District Shikarpur, the petitioner alleged that the Sindh government had established the corporation between 2009 and 2010 but failed to deliver despite the lapse of many years.

He recalled that the corporation was required to deliver sustainable water supply, sewerage and solid waste services in a safe, efficient and effective manner in eight districts of upper Sindh - Sukkur, New Sukkur, Rohri, Khairpur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Ghotki.

In his plea, Osto had contended that the NSUSC was created by obtaining a loan of $500 million from the Asian Development Bank, but the same has not benefited the public in these districts. Instead, the subsoil water was further contaminated, he added. The provincial government had failed to provide drinking water to the public at large in upper and lower parts of the province, he said, adding that the subsoil water is contaminated and not fit for human consumption.

During Tuesday' proceedings, chief secretary Rizwan Memon, LG secretary Muhammad Ramzan Awan and NSUSC managing-director Mehmood Abbas Shah filed their concise report through the advocate-general.

However, the petitioner pleaded to the judges to constitute a commission to probe the allegations made in his petition.

The chief secretary and AG Zamir Ghumro said they have no reservations to this request.

"In the circumstances, looking at the nature of controversy raised in these proceedings, we are satisfied that a commission needs to be appointed to probe into the allegations pleaded in the petition and after proper enquiry report to this court," observed Justice Muslim.

Forming the inquiry body, the bench ordered that: "The commission shall record its findings in regard to providing/supply of clean water to the residents of Sindh besides the deteriorating condition of sanitation in Sindh".

It further ordered the commission to examine the statutory role played by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency on the issues mandated by the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014.

The court order said: "The commission will also examine the officials or material from relevant agencies/organisations inclusive of all the civic and land owing agencies. The federal government, the Sindh government or any organisation under their control shall cooperate with the proposed commission."

The apex court asked the provincial chief justice to nominate a serving judge of the high court as commission for the aforesaid purpose in terms of the Order XXXII of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980.

"The commission shall hold enquiry on the aforesaid issues and record its findings in detail in the proposed report within six weeks from the date of its notification. He shall hold the enquiry on day to day basis," read the order.

"As a commission it shall exercise all the powers of a high court judge inclusive of the powers conferred under the [Code of Civil Procedure]," it added.

The judges directed the office to send a set of the files to the SHC's registrar with the order to be placed before the CJ. "We expect that the commission shall be notified within a week from today," the judges ordered.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2016.


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