Katas Raj case wrapped up after cement factories agree to find alternate water source

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–Bestway Cement and DG Khan Cement tell court they are willing to Rs2bn as bank security until they are able to find alternate source of water

–Also promise to build small dam in the area, the outflow of which will be maintained in a way that the Katas Raj pond is not adversely affected

 

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday wrapped up the Katas Raj suo motu case after the cement factories put forward a proposal that they would find an alternative water source and pay for the water they would use until then.

The top court, in November last year, had taken notice of reports that the pond in the Katas Raj temple complex was drying up because cement factories nearby were drawing a large amount of water through a number of sub-soil wells.

A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, has been hearing the case. During earlier proceedings, the court had also ordered the federal and Punjab governments to form a special committee of experts to save the fabled prehistoric Hindu temple of Katas Raj.

Bestway Cement and DG Khan Cement proposed that they would submit Rs2 billion — Rs1.5bn by Bestway, Rs0.5bn by DG Khan — as bank security until they are able to find an alternate source of water. They said they would build a small dam in the area, the outflow of which will be maintained in a way that the pond at Katas Raj is not adversely affected. They also proposed to pay the Punjab government for the water that they use until then.

The CJP noted that the cement factories would have to improve the system of smoke exhaust keeping in view the global standards. “If needed, the court will have the smoke exhaust system checked,” he said.

He said that the factories should not cause pollution in the area and ensure the pond in Katas Raj temple is filled.

“It is our responsibility to take care of worship places of minorities,” he said.

On April 2, the SC ordered the cement factories around the Katas Raj Temples to come up with a policy for payment of water used in the past and that to be consumed in the future.

The directive was given by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar in a suo motu case based on media reports that the cement factories near the ancient temples are causing the Katas Raj pond to dry out completely.

Justice Nisar said that the people who are not doing anything for the Katas Raj situation are not sincere with this country. He also said that the factory owners must have used influence for the establishment of cement factories in the area.

He lamented the “giving away of the factories for free” by the former secretary industries, Khalid Sherdil, at which the official responded that a no-objection certificate (NOC) was not a requirement when the factories were established.

He also said that cement factories should pay up to get water from the river, ordering the factories to give recommendations as to how much they are willing to pay for the purpose.

The CJP also ordered the factories to take measures to prevent air pollution while directing the Punjab government to install pipelines to provide water to the factories.

The Katas Raj temple in Chakwal is one of the holiest sites in Hindu mythology. Legend has it that, after the death of his wife Sati, Lord Shiva cried so inconsolably that his tears formed a pond that came to be known as the Katas Raj pond. Around this pond, temples were built dedicated to the Hindu deities Shiva, Ram and Hunaman.