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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has said that the Reko Diq is a national project and is for the development of the Balochistan province. The chief justice while responding to Balochistan Bar Council (BBC) counsel’s contention, stated that this is a national project and is for the development of Balochistan. He said there is no financial liability on the part of the provincial government but on the federal government.

Amanullah Kanrani, appearing on behalf of the BBC, argued that the match is fixed between the private company and both the federal and provincial governments. The chief justice asked him not to comment on other factors as this is a national project. Kanrani was asked to file his arguments in writing.

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel on Thursday heard the presidential reference on the RekoDiq project.

The bench expressed concern over the extensive water requirement for the RekoDiq project. Justice Ijaz remarked that according to Barrick Gold’s counsel the ores taken out will be mixed with water and at port will be de-watered. He questioned from where huge quantity of water will be arranged. He said that hundreds and thousands tons of ores will be extracted and for that large amount of water is required.

‘Reko Diq reference’: Country to pay $9bn if deal not inked by Dec 15, SC told

Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman said that the water is available in the province, adding the company will do digging and use the underground water.

Justice Bandial said in de-watering process large amount of water will be wasted. He inquired where the polluted water will be thrown. “Will it be thrown in the sea,” he further asked. Justice Ijaz said this water is for the future generation of Balochistan, adding if the water is used for the project then it will finish soon, adding underground water is fresh water that should not be exhausted.

Justice Ijaz further said the digging water for the RekoDiq project will damage the aquifer and bring down the water level, adding Balochistan has less rains. He further said that the Supreme Court in the cement plants case observed that the 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 the water usage of domestic users. The apex court had directed the companies to build pipelines to supply water from near rivers for the factories.

The chief justice said the government should think of charging the company for using underground water. He also said that the licensing company should compensate the labourers with high salary as it will have various concessions from the regulatory bodies.

The case was adjourned until Monday (Nov 28).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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