LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Monday while hearing a suo motu case regarding selling of bottled water summoned owners of 11 mineral water manufacturing companies today (Tuesday) and warned their non-appearance would result in their names being put on the ECL.
A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took up a suo motu case pertaining to selling of bottled water by extracting groundwater without paying any charges and if it is fit for human consumption. The chief justice expressed anger after advocate Aitzaz Ahsan counsel for Nestle Company suggested that the case be heard after the top judge returns from the scheduled trip to the United Kingdom. Aitzaz had proposed the court set November 30 as the date for the next hearing.
The CJ responded: “Do you want me to compromise on a issue of public importance and leave for my visit to the UK? Are those people (company owners) who are selling dirty water entitled to forgiveness?” Justice Ijazul Ahsan and other member of the bench, regretted the bottled water selling companies are earning billions of rupees but they have no water testing laboratory.
Meanwhile, a report submitted by the Environment Protection Agency said the bottled water companies had been extracting underground water worth Rs9 million per hour in the main cities of Punjab including Lahore and Sheikhupura. It said the companies have no laboratory to analyse the fitness of the underground water for human consumption. There is no certified method to assess the quality of water, it said, adding that only Qarshi has a certified laboratory. It further said the companies have no mechanism to identify minerals in the water. The report confirmed that the
underground water being extracted and used by the companies contained fluoride and arsenic.
The report also highlighted that none of the other companies are aware of what is in the water that they extract from the ground. The Supreme Court Monday wrapped up the Katas Raj case and ordered DG Khan Cement Company Ltd to deposit Rs100 million in the SC Dam Fund — Rs80 million as payment for water utilised by the factory and Rs20 million penalty for attempting to mislead the apex court. The chief justice issued the directives at the SC Lahore Registry while hearing a suo motu case initiated following media reports that the Katas
Raj temple pond — considered sacred by Hindus — was drying out. During earlier hearings of the case, the bench was told that the nearby cement factories had sucked up large quantities of groundwater through a number of borings. The borings had severely reduced the subsoil water levels and affected water usage of the domestic users, as well as causing the pond’s water level to drop. The court subsequently barred the cement factories from extracting groundwater from the area. In the Monday’s hearing, a special committee tasked by the court in the last hearing to visit the DG Cement factory in Chakwal to determine how it stores water — also submitted its report to the bench. The CJ said in his remarks that DG Cement claimed to have stored rainwater, but this is a lie since they have actually obtained groundwater. He noted that the factories had not taken any measures to resolve the issue voluntarily and that the owners only think of their own profits.
While hearing a case pertaining to the polluted water being dumped in River Ravi, the apex court directed the Punjab Minister for Housing and Physical Planning Mian Mehmoodur Rashid to form a committee for speeding up immediate construction of a filtration plant to treat water being dumped at Ravi. A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case pertaining to River Ravi at the Lahore Registry. Punjab Minister Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed appeared before the court. During the hearing, the chief justice turned to the provincial minister and asked: “Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed Sb who is in power in Punjab?” To this, the minister
responded: “The provincial government is that of the PTI Naya Pakistan”. At this, Justice Nisar remarked, “We don’t know if Naya Pakistan is to be made or not”. “The whole city’s polluted water is being dumped into Ravi. To date, no work regarding water filtration has been done. Who has to do this work?” the top judge asked. “All departments keep pointing fingers at each other. Water filtration work needs to be done on an emergency basis,” he added. “Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed Sb do something. This is an important issue,” the chief justice further said. Justice Nisar continued: “Form a committee and submit a report within one week on the work being done for filtration of water”