Punjab EPA cuts water supply to cement factory near Katas Raj pond


–Director says factory failed to find alternate ways to meet water requirements in given time

LAHORE: Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday dismantled a private pumping station installed at Karuli pond, which was being used to supply water to Bestway Cement factory near Chakwal.

The development came following a research conducted by the National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK). According to the findings, the Karuli pond was located in the negative area while the usage of its water for any commercial activity was declared unsustainable.

EPA Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Director Naseemur Rehman informed Pakistan Today that the authority, in light of NESPAK’s report, had directed Bestway and DG Khan cement factories to fulfill their water needs from any other alluvial source such as river Jhelum.

“Grace time was awarded to the factories to find alternate ways for their water requirements, but they remained reluctant to do so,” he said, adding that as they failed to meet the deadline, EPA took action and dismantled Bestway Cement’s water connection for not complying to the given directions.

There are two other cement factories; Gharibwal Cement and Dandot Cement, that are located in the area, but according to NESPAK, Bestway and DG Khan factories fall in the red zone and also affect the Katas Raj pond as the two factories were among others located in the vicinity of the renowned Katas Raj Temples in Kahoon Valley in the Salt Range near Chakwal district.

Katas Raj Temples made it to limelight last year after its centuries-old water pond ran dry, which was attributed to the depletion of groundwater owing to the establishment of cement factories in the area.

After the menace was reported, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took a suo motu notice and started hearing the case in November. During the course of proceedings, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar remarked that cement factories were consuming water worth millions of rupees without paying their dues. He stated that taxes should be imposed on the factories and if the government would not do so, the court would take the matter into its hands.

In May 2018, after the factories assured arrangement of alternate sources of water and pay for the water they would use, SC disposed of the case. However, the apex court re-opened it in July after witnessing inaction.

On Monday, while hearing the case in SC Lahore registry, CJP ordered the authorities to determine the per cusec water price from the pond at Karuli while also directing the closure of the pond. The owner of the said pond, Ghulam Sagheer, also appeared before the SC.


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