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Cement company wishes to review SC ruling on Katas Raj water case


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In another occurrence in the string of events linking the Katas Raj temple waters with two cement companies, one cement company, has filed an objection against the fine imposed by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling was imposed on the companies for draining away water not meant for industrial purposes. The ruling cited the illegal expansion of the company as the reason behind the depletion of groundwater that was used by locals for their livelihood and sustenance.

The fine, on the other hand, was imposed because the companies were not paying their fair share in taxes as the geography of the region in terms of tourism, environment and water resources was worth millions.

The issue was taken to court when the 15,000 sq. ft. a pond within the boundaries of the iconic Katas Raj temple; a national heritage site and sacred place for Hindus; began drying up. The illegal use of groundwater for the manufacture of cement led to the pond disappearing.

In a review submitted by the company against the Supreme Court’s final decision the company has contended that its use of groundwater was not illegal and thus the imposed fine should be withdrawn.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had led the bench that ruled on the case and issued the Supreme Court decision to the Punjab government for fixing a price for the use of groundwater. On top of that, a fine had been imposed on the companies built near the pond (Bestway and DG Khan Cement) for the indiscriminate use of underground water.

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For many, the Supreme Court decisions had been lax given the impact the falling water table had on land and people in the region. The waters of Katas Raj are considered holy for locals and Hindus who believe it formed from the tears of Lord Shiva as he wept over the death of his wife Sati while flying above.

The companies were issued deadlines to find alternative routes for water as well while paying for the water they were using. The fine, on the other hand, was imposed because the companies were not paying their fair share in taxes as the geography of the region in terms of tourism, environment and water resources was worth millions.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had led the bench that ruled on the case and issued the Supreme Court decision to the Punjab government for fixing a price for the use of groundwater.

In their appeal, the cement company reminded the apex court that accusations levied against them by Raja Waseem stipulated that they were secretly drawing out groundwater for production purposes. The review petition went on to state that a judicial commission investigating these accusations has already proven them as false.

The companies while abiding by the court ruling had submitted Rs100 million that went into the dam fund and were also regularly paying the new price of groundwater imposed by the court. The company also added that they have extensively utilized collected rainwater in runoff lakes for production purposes while underground water was only extracted for individual use by its staff.

When the court ruling came out, for many in Pakistan the companies should have been more heavily penalized especially for Hindu adherents who saw it as an act of sacrilege. The lowering of the water table does have many negative effects on the terrain as well while increasing the costs of water extraction.

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Pakistan currently sits right in the alley of an incoming water-crisis where water shortages all over the country, due to similar mismanagements and illegal well drilling, have sparked fears for the future. Although the court ruling has managed to effectively direct solutions towards these ends, the environmental impact has yet to be discerned.

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