Katas Raj pond: Top court wants claims of cement factories verified

EPA directed to submit a report on factories in federal capital drawing water

Our Correspondent November 09, 2018
Pond at the Katas Raj Temple in Chakwal district of Punjab. PHOTO COURTESY: http://blog.travel-culture.com/

ISLAMABAD: The deputy commissioner overseeing the historic Katas Raj temple in the Potohar area of Rawalpindi division has been tasked by the top court to verify claims of reduced subsoil water usage by cement factories in the area.

Moreover, the chief environment protection body has been directed to submit a report regarding underground water usage by factories around the capital.

This was directed by a two-member bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, as it heard a suo moto case relating to the pond in the historic Katas Raj Temple in the Potohar Plateau drying up.

During Thursday’s hearing, the cement factories located in the vicinity of the temple told the court that they had stopped drawing water for production purposes.

However, they said that underground water was only being drawn to meet the basic needs of workers at the plant.

Justice Ahsan asked that the court had called for an inquiry against the cement factories, what is the state of progress of the investigations?

The additional advocate general told the court that investigations are still underway.

The judge further asked how much water is being drawn from the ground and how much is required to meet the personal needs of employees at the factories.

At this, some members of civil society organisations present in the court claimed that the cement factories were lying about curbing their use of underground water. Instead, they claimed that the pond in the temple had dried up due to the excessive extraction of underground water by these factories.

The court directed the activists to file a proper complaint in this regard so that it can be probed accordingly.

Factories in Islamabad

The additional attorney general told the court that there were reports that some factories in the Sangjiani area of the federal capital were drawing underground water for industrial purposes.

At this, the top court directed the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to submit a report.

During Thursday’s hearing, the lawyer for the cement factories told the court that the investigating agencies were harassing them and urged the court to restrain the investigators to the extent of harassment.

The court accepted the request barred agencies from harassing the factories while directing the deputy commissioner to verify of reports on water usage.

The hearing was then adjourned until Wednesday, November 14.

Last month, the apex court had directed the government to make arrangements to refill the fabled pond in the historic Katas Raj Temple.

The court had been told by the Punjab advocate general that they have set a price of a million rupees per cusec for using underground water.

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.

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.

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, November 9th, 2018.

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