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Pak SC asks cement company to refill water in Katas Raj temple pond

The SC had also expressed dismay over the absence of representations of Hindu deities in the historic Sri Ram and Hanuman temples in the complex.

world Updated: Dec 13, 2017 20:26 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Katas Raj,Bestway Cement factory,Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar
The apex court had expressed dismay over the absence of idols of Hindu deities in the historic Sri Ram and Hanuman temples in the complex. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a local cement factory to fill water in the pond of Katas Raj temple in Chakwal within a week, taking cognisance of reports that such factories had caused the drying of the water body.

The Bestway Cement factory, which was asked to fill the pond of the Hindu shrine, is one of the four major cement production units in the area. A three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar is hearing a suo motu case based on media reports that the pond is drying out due to water consumption by these factories.

The factories are reportedly draining the pond through a number of wells which have reduced the subsoil water level the created shortages for domestic users as well.

On Wednesday, the bench expressed anger over the continued absence of Bestway Cement's counsel.

It told the Punjab government to provide details of the conditions under which the authorities had allowed the construction of cement factories in the area.

The court also sought reports on the environmental pollution caused by factories there.

The prosecution claims that the cement factories have worsened the risks of breast cancer and respiratory diseases among people living nearby. “We will not allow cement factories to operate at the cost of people's health,” the chief justice said on Wednesday.

The SC had also expressed dismay over the absence of representations of Hindu deities in the historic Sri Ram and Hanuman temples in the complex and sought an explanation from the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in this regard.

The ETPB, which oversees the temple's affairs, had informed the SC that idols of Hindu deities had been removed from the temples on fears of reprisal attacks following the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India in 1992.

The temples were then locked up to prevent desecration that might be caused by wild jackals and bats in the area. The court was perturbed to learn that Hindu pilgrims who visited the holy site had to bring their own idols to perform their rituals.

The authorities had later requested an Indian political leadership to donate some idols, but it was not granted, the ETPB chairman said in a written response.

The chairman also claimed that no religious services are held in Shri Ram and Hanuman temples since they are archaeological sites.

The Shiv Ling was present in all temples where people come to worship, he said.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan had earlier asked the ETBP counsel whether the statues are with the institution or had been sold off. The board is charged with looking after places of worship of those religious communities whose numbers are now so low that they cannot afford the upkeep of these places.

The chief justice had lamented the government’s inability to safeguard one of the Hindu community’s most revered places of worship, where the main pond is drying up as nearby cement factories are drawing away the sub-soil water through boring.

He said that Katas Raj was a national heritage site and must be protected. He ordered a committee be set up to probe the issue.

First Published: Dec 13, 2017 20:25 IST