The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar ordered authorities to levy a tax of Rs1 (one rupee) on the companies selling the bottled water in the country for every liter they extract from underground water reserves. The Court ordered the federal and provincial governments to issue the notification of this tax within two days.
The chief justice reprimanded mineral water companies for “extracting billions of rupees’ worth of groundwater” and not paying enough taxes on it during the hearing of the this case. He made it clear to the water companies that Court would not allow anybody to pollute and deplete the water resources of this country. “We will do it even at the cost of closure of the companies”.
The chief Justice of Pakistan made important remarks and observations during the hearing of the case. “This is no longer [only] about taxes, this [issue] has turned into a scandal.It should not be called ‘mineral’ water, it should be called ‘bottled’ water,” he remarked. “Billions of rupees’ worth of groundwater has been extracted by these companies. Who will account for this?” CJP Nisar questioned.
The Chief justice told the representative of a water company that the court would not allow for the nation’s loss, even if it meant the mineral water companies had to shut down their industry. “[We] will not let the people die of thirst, just for the sake of your profits,” the chief justice remarked.
Environmental expert Professor Dr Ahsan Siddiqui informed the court that the mineral water companies in question did not even possess equipment to check the water quality, and they had also not obtained any certificate from any environmental organisation.
The water expert told the court that a single plant of a company extracts approximately 0.1 million (one hundred thousand) liters of water per hour. The groundwater level in Karachi has receded from 100ft to 400ft, he added.
The director-general of environment informed that none of the mineral water companies has been paying even a single rupee to the government. He told the court that the wastewater is released back into the ground, which serves to pollute the groundwater further.
The water companies both multinational and national has been selling bottled water worth billions of rupees every year. They extract the ground water for free and just filtered the normal ground water and sell it at high prices.
The clean drinking water is the basic necessity of life and the state is responsible to provide the clean drinking water. The poor quality of tap water is forcing the people to buy bottled water. But the irony is that this bottled water is not safe for consumption as many believed.
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17 November, 2019