CHAKWAL: The Katas Raj pond, which dried up last May, has remained dry despite the monsoon rains.
The pond has also been de-silted by two to three feet by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), with the help of the district administration and a cement plant, but this has had little effect.
The sacred pond currently holds just 3 or 4ft of water. The stairs into the pond, which used to be submerged in the water, are now visible.
The ETPB has dug a water bore at the site, through which the plants are watered and the water filtration plant is filled.
An ETPB employee said the water from the Katas Raj pond was once used to irrigate gardens of loquats in Choa Saidan Shah, while drinking water from the pond was supplied to Choa Saidan Shah town and the Waulah and Katas villages. “Now, the very plants at Katas Raj are being irrigated using a water bore,” he said.
“The pond has lost its serenity, and with losing its serenity of the pond the mystic Katas Raj will not be as attractive as it used to be because its jewel is its holy pond,” Punjab poet Dr Mohammad Azam Samore said.
Local residents say the pond has dried up because of negligence on the part of the government, which allowed cement plants to set up in the pond’s vicinity.
Resident Zaffar Iqbal said: “Cement plants have not only rendered this historic pond dry, the whole area is also facing an immense water shortage.”
When contacted, ETPB Chairman Mohammad Siddiqueul Farooq admitted that the pond’s water level did not rise from the monsoon rains.
“Although we have de-silted the pond by three feet, the water level could not rise as the area’s water table has decreased,” he said.
Mr Farooq hoped that the condition of the pond would improve in the coming months. He said the monsoon has not ended, and they were waiting for the ultimate outcome of the rainy season.
He added that the ETPB has devised alternate measures to permanently resolve the matter if the pond is not filled in the coming months.
When asked about local cement plants, he said cement plants were the country’s assets. He said: “The whole area is facing a water shortage and the pond is no exception.”
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2017