Katas Raj case: SC halts cement factories from using potable water

Previously the factories had assured the chief justice that alternative sources of water will be used in the coming six months


Staff Report
The country’s top court on Tuesday barred the cement factories from using potable water, as it admonished the private cement factories for putting profits before the environment.
The apex court was hearing a case pertaining to the depleted Katas Raj pond in Chakwal, a revered site for Hindus which is said to have depleted due to the excessive withdrawal of groundwater for the working of several cement factories.
The SC had wrapped up its suo motu notice of the poor condition of the Katas Raj pond back in May this year, after assurance from cement factories to arrange alternative sources of water and to pay for the water used.
The bench also summoned the officials of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who had reportedly granted permission to use the underground water.
During the hearing, the representatives of the factories appeared before the bench, and sought time to find a permanent solution to resolve the matter.
“Why this matter shouldn’t be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB),” CJP remarked.
However, irked by the non-implementation of its orders, SC once again reprimanded the cement factories for wasteful use of potable water.
In his remarks, Chief Justice observed that cement factories were consuming millions of rupees worth of water without paying their dues.
The government has been complicit in this wastage and questioned as to why the Punjab government had not yet imposed taxes on cement factories.
“We will impose the taxes ourselves”, the chief justice added. The SC adjourned the case till August 1 after giving the suo motu.
Before concluding the case on May 8, the Supreme Court had ordered the factories to submit Rs2 billion as bank security, and had also warned to shut down the factories for their gross negligence.
Previously, the factories had assured the chief justice that alternative sources of water will be used in the coming six months.
Various proposals to resolve the issue were put forth, including spending Rs7billion to attain from River Jhelum the much needed water. The bench, however, expressed its dissatisfaction over the proposals.
These factories are exploiting the shield of national interest, the CJP remarked.
The top judge told the owners to pay a visit and witness the difficulties the residents of the area have to face owing to dearth of water.

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