Friday January 21, 2022

SC summons 11 bottled water Cos’ owners today

By Amir Riaz
November 20, 2018

LAHORE: The Supreme Court Monday while hearing a suo motu case regarding selling of bottled water summoned owners of 11 mineral water manufacturing companies today (Tuesday) and warned that 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 its fitness for human consumption.

The chief justice showed anger after advocate Aitzaz Ahsan counsel for Nestle Company suggested that the case be heard after the top judge returns from a 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 public importance issue and leave for my visit to the UK? Are those people (company owners) who are selling dirty water entitled to forgiveness?” Justice Ijazul Ahsan, other member of the bench, regretted that these bottled water selling companies had been earning billions of rupees but they had no water testing laboratory.

Meanwhile, a report submitted by Environment Protection Agency disclosed that the bottled water companies had been extracting underground water worth Rs9 million per hour in main cities of Punjab including Lahore and Sheikhupura. It said the companies had no laboratory to analyse 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 had no mechanism to identify minerals and 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 had been told that nearby cement factories had sucked up large quantities of groundwater through a number of drill bores. The bores had severely reduced subsoil water levels and affected water usage of domestic users, as well as causing the pond’s water levels to drop. The court subsequently barred cement factories from extracting groundwater from the area.

In 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 — submitted its report to the bench.

The CJ said in his remarks that DG Cement claimed to have stored rainwater, but this was a lie since they had actually obtained groundwater. Henoted that the factories had not taken any measures to resolve the issues voluntarily and that the owners only think of their own profits.

While hearing a case pertaining to polluted water being dumped in River Ravi, the apex court directed Punjab Minister for Housing and Physical Planning Mian Mehmoodur Rashid to form a committee for speeding up immediate construction of filtration plant to treat water being dumped in 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 in River Ravi. Till 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”. The chief justice directed the minister to constitute a committee on the issue and file report within a week.