It was about two weeks ago when I was asked by local MPA Arshad Ayub, along with the local human rights lawyers and activists, to visit Haripur. They received me at the exit of Burhan interchange of the motorway leading to Peshawar. It was a beautiful scenic drive to a village called Dingi where they took me. Dingi is an old historic village. Narrow streets with varied elevation, going up and down; Big cars would not be able to move through these streets. The hospitable locals there wanted to show me their ‘small’ problem. From either side of their village their used to be a canal that would pass by and was a blessing for the locals in the summers. Then something tragic happened, and Harrat Industrial Estate was announced in 1991. Without taking into consideration any health or environmental hazard that it would cause in future, the industrial estate was finalised and operational. Two motorway exits cater to this industrial estate. The price of land is not even 1/20th of what it is in Islamabad, yet it is only 30/45 mins from the Capitol. The most “rewarding” bit was that there are no check and balances here. The industrial units do not even have the name written at the entrance of their units. In Dingi, when I got off the car to look around the village, an overwhelming pungent odor takes you by surprise. It is so strong that it is impossible to stand there and look around. The canals that were once a relief and beauty for the village have now turned into filthy sewage channels. The smell in the air is so overpowering that you can forget to breath. There was no way possible for us to stand there even for few minutes. The locals told me that in evening the industrial units open their chimneys that make this already unbearable smell even stronger and the air more polluted. The smell made us all forget about the contamination being caused, and the life threatening diseases like hepatitis possibly cancer, and such were spreading all along the canals turned sewage. From that spot we went to the industrial estate to see the source of this gutter that had turned a canal once a swimming pool into a horrible site to even stand nearby. We got off the car, with a warning that kindly, keep your noses covered. It is impossible for me to explain what happened when I got off the car to look at the sewage collecting from all the factories. That smell in the air literally choked all of us. Some started to vomit. Some had tears in their eyes. I ran back in the car and asked the locals to take me away. I was coughing for next two days. I was in shock. Was this even real? Hopeless I was, till I attended the two day conference on water scarcity in Pakistan, hosted by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan. The international conference with speakers from across the world, from all the relevant departments, from all the political parties, and the legal experts and scholars, it certainly did the exhaustive analysis of the problems Pakistan is facing with regards to the water crises. Once the problems were mentioned from every angle of the issue, the experts, professionals, jurists, and scholars had to give the solution. This was followed by the question and answer session. It was indeed one of the most productive conferences after the climate change symposium held by Lahore High Court with help of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jawad Hasan. I request the Chief to visit the Harrat industrial estate and do his khulli-kacheri on the site and summon all the stake holders and the responsible people. Make the people who have caused this distress, pain and suffering to the locals, sit in the smell and air First we were told about the Indus Basin and it’s importance and how there was no proper authority to govern the basin, while around the world, such a mammoth basin with this level of dependency is given an extremely high level of importance. The difference between surface water and ground water, and how they are mismanaged in different ways. How the tube wells have become a curse to the nation, from something that was once a blessing. It was a shocking revelation for me to know that 60,000 litters were given at one rupee to the agriculture land. It was mentioned by one of the speakers that from 100 samples of water taken 70-80 samples will show water unsafe for drinking. Furthermore, from the legal perspective things were also discussed and it was concluded that our laws were nearly obsolete, since most of them were before partition and remaining were from the 20th century. It can be concluded from the conference that with the changing climate, the situation changed so rapidly, new laws, new accords, new treaties have to be signed. The flexibility is policy and the transparency in usage have to be there. The problem arises between not only neighbours but between the provinces as well. It is predicted that in the future Kabul and Islamabad will have similar tension on water as Islamabad has with Delhi. 2025 is considered the year when the whole of Pakistan will be facing the situation that Thar is facing right now. For now, the nation has to take the responsibility, and as Chief says, “apko iss maa (Pakistan) se ishq kerna hoga ag risko bachana hai.” The conference was concluded with the Chief picking up his half empty water bottle and putting it inside is jacket pocket. The message was clear and the declaration was passed. “Water emergency” is need of the hour. Sou Moto are needed on water issues. Places like Dingi are not the first casualty of this crises but the first we experienced first-hand. I request the Chief to visit the Harrat industrial estate and do his khulli-kacheri on the site and summon all the stake holders and the responsible people. Make the people who have caused this distress, pain and suffering to the locals, sit in the smell and air. Sanctions are needed to be imposed on the ones who have created this severe Water Emergency. Access to clean and healthy water is a fundamental right under article 9 of the constitution and violating it must have some consequences. I thank Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Pakistan for the initiative they have taken. The writer a Human rights lawyer and Director Human Rights Protection Cell, Lahore. Twitter: @HniaziISF Facebook: Hassaan Khan Niazi email: email@example.com Published in Daily Times, November 29th 2018.