Govt told to refill historic Katas Raj temple pond

SC tells cement companies to make alternative arrangements for water in Nov

Our Correspondent October 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The apex court on Wednesday directed the provincial government to make immediate arrangements to ensure that the fabled pond in the historic Katas Raj Temple is filled.

The court also approved the prices fixed by the Punjab government for use of underground water.

This was directed as the Supreme Court heard the case of underground water use by cement factories in Chakwal on Wednesday.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar asked the provinces to disclose the price they had fixed for usage of underground water by commercial entities.

Katas Raj Temple pond: ‘Water as precious a commodity as gold’

“Cement factories have been using underground water for years without even paying a penny but the provinces have been least bothered,” remarked CJP Nisar, adding that water worth of billions of rupees has been stolen but no one has asked the owners of the factories about it.

The Advocate General of Punjab told the court that they have set a price of a million rupees per cusec for using underground water.

At this, the CJP said that those who have been stealing water must be made to pay for it.

“This is a case for either the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA),” CJP Nisar remarked, adding that the excuse that this happened in the past will no longer fly and that those who have been negligent in the past will also be put on trial.

“No one asked the owners when water worth of billions of rupees was stolen, why shouldn’t criminal action be taken against those responsible for this,” the top jurist asked.

Court expressed its approval of the price set by Punjab government for use of underground water.

Noting that a major Hindu festival — Diwali — due to be held in November, the CJP expressed concerns over how the historic temple’s ponds will be refilled.

In this regard, he directed cement factories to make alternative arrangements for obtaining water for their processes and imposed a ban on the supply of underground water to the factories during November.

The hearing was then adjourned for an indefinite period.

Last year in November, CJP Nisar had taken suo moto notice of the abled Katas Raj Temples’ pond drying up because of the area’s subsoil water being used by nearby industrial plants.

Once an ‘unfathomable’ pond, always on the verge of overflowing, had been steadily shrinking and recent visits showed that the pond was all but a small puddle.

NA standing committee: Report sought on dried-up Katas Raj pond

Locals blamed the cement plants, which, they said, have drilled a number of water-bores in the vicinity of the temples, to draw water for their industrial production.

Taking notice of the grave situation, the chief justice sought a detailed report from the relevant officials of the federal and Punjab governments within three days.

Dedicated to Hindu god Shiva, the Katas Raj temples are situated near Choa Saidan Shah in the Chakwal district of Punjab. The site originally housed a cluster of seven ancient temples, along with a Buddhist stupa and the home of a warrior — built between 6th and 13th century.

Legend has it the pond was formed by the tears shed by Shiva over the death of his wife Sati. Hindu pilgrims from around the world visit the Katas Raj temples during the Maha Shivratri festival and bathe in the ‘sacred pond’ to seek forgiveness. Some believe the water holds healing powers.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2018.


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