Says experts team be formed to give suggestions to tackle the issue
Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday said the Supreme Court will work towards the construction of dams in the country.
“We will play our role in the construction of dams,” the CJP said while heading a larger bench at SC’s Karachi Registry. The bench was hearing a petition filed by Barrister Zafarullah Khan requesting a referendum for the construction of Kalabagh Dam.
“At the moment, we are not arguing over the construction of Kalabagh Dam but are looking at how the issue of water scarcity in the country can be resolved,” Justice Nisar remarked.
Vowing that the apex court will not take a decision which affects any of the petitioners, the chief justice said, “An alternate solution would be sought in case of conflict between four brothers.”
Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said the Supreme Court would not issue any such order on Kalabagh Dam that could affect any party.
The CJP’s comment came in response to Advocate Majid Peerzada’s remarks that the issue of Kalabagh Dam is ‘disputed’.
“The people of the four provinces have termed the dam dangerous,” the advocate informed the larger bench.
However, Justice Nisar told Advocate Peerzada, “Do not feel insecure, we desire to do our best to resolve the issue of water scarcity.”
He further said, “Supreme Court is the court of the center and we seek to bring everyone together not create differences.”
“We are adamant that we will resolve the issue of water crisis,” the CJP added while suggesting that a team be formed comprising experts such as Aitzaz Ahsan to give suggestions on how to tackle the issue.
Justice Nisar asserted, “We will now move forward with the construction of dams and after Eid-ul-Fitr, SC’s Law and Justice Department will hold seminars while experts will give recommendations and SOPs will be prepared.”
The chief justice also asked the petitioner to give recommendations on how dams should be built in the country. “We will forward these recommendations to the Parliament.”
Remarking that laws can be drafted by Law and Justice Department which are then recommended to Parliament, Justice Nisar said, “If the nation gives us authority, we are ready to fulfil our role.” “The first step towards it will be taken through our seminars which will be held in Karachi and cities across Sindh first.”
During the hearing, former chairman of Water and Power Development Authoiry, Zafar Mahmood, told the court that people were not fully informed about the construction of Kalabagh Dam.
“I resigned from the post of WAPDA chairman following this dispute,” he further said.
Informing the court that India has taken over the water tributaries of Ravi and Sutlej and the Indus Waters Treaty also poses a risk, the former WAPDA chairman said, “India will try to stop the flow of water to us.”
To this, the CJP asked Mahmood what role the top court can play. “There is a need to create awareness on the issue of water scarcity,” Mahmood responded. Justice Nisar then adjourned the hearing of the case.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, asked Zafar Mahmood what the alternative to the controversial project was as “four brothers do not agree over it”.
Mahmood instead painted a dire picture of Pakistan’s water woes, telling the apex court that climate change has increased incidence of floods in the country while glaciers are also melting faster than before. He claimed that underground water had also reached dangerous levels, especially in Quetta, where it would take 200 years for groundwater to be restored to safe levels.
He said that the city would become uninhabitable in the near future because of its water crisis. He also said that the people need to be made aware of ways to conserve water and that the practice of dumping untreated industrial waste should also be curbed.
Holding all past governments responsible for “criminal negligence”, the former Wapda chief said Pakistan was far behind India in building dams. He noted that India, which controls three rivers flowing into Pakistan, increases outflow of water towards Pakistan during floods.
The chief justice noted that despite being told by the court to take measures to address water crisis, the Punjab government had not done anything.
After a lawyer claimed all provinces were against the construction of Kalabagh dam, the chief justice said that no one should feel threatened by the apex court because it was not going to enforce its construction and was rather trying to find ways of dealing with the crisis.
Meanwhile, Justice Faisal Arab questioned why the dams which are not controversial have also not been built.