NA body questions issuance of NOC to cement factories near Katas Raj temples: report


ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Tuesday expressed concerns about the Katas Raj pond drying out and asked why cement factories were issued no-objection certificates (NOC) to operate in the area, according to a report by a private media outlet.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony met at Parliament House to discuss in detail the drying up of the sacred pond.

Committee chairman MNA Ali Mohammad Khan said the Katas Raj pond is a holy site for Hindu pilgrims and the state is responsible for resolving this issue, while MNA Shahida Akhtar also expressed concern regarding the pond’s condition.

The Supreme Court in November last year also took suo motu notice of the drying up of the pond, and the matter is still in court.

Khan said a cement factory located near the pond that is believed to be one of the industrial units responsible for the drying up of the pond could not be relocated, and should instead be made to shift its water pump system from the area.

During the course of the meeting, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Secretary Mohammad Tariq quoted the board’s response before the SC, saying that the pond had dried up because of a lack of rainfall, and because two cement factories in the area were found to have been using groundwater resources while the local population was extracting groundwater through boring.

The committee chairman said that whether the cement factories were issued NOCs while adopting the rules and procedure, or if the rules were abused to give factories permission in the area, needed to be looked into.

The ETPB secretary told the committee earlier that while the temple was the board’s property, its administrative affairs had been looked after by the Punjab government since 2004.

He asked that administrative control of the temples be returned to the ETPB, which is consulting with Hindu communities and exploring various options to resolve the lack of water in the pond for good.

He said one of the options the ETPB has proposed is to convert the pond into a swimming pool and fill it from water extracted through boring.

However, committee members did not find the proposal workable after a Hindu lawmaker said religious leaders would not accept this option.