Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drying Salt Range - Hindu Lord cannot weep any more at Kataas

The hills and valleys of the Salt Range are among the most haunting on earth. In its Kahoon Valley, Chakwal the Pond of Hindu Lord Shiva at Kataas Raj is sacred to Hinduism, as its ancient temple is raised over the waters of a deep and mysterious Pond which existed since very very long.

Hindus believe that Lord Shiva grief-stricken over the death of his beloved Sita gave vent to his tears and from his immortal eyes a teardrop fell at this spot and created the pool at Kataas Raj. So the legend goes. A second teardrop fell in Pushkara near the Holy City of Ajmer, creating another pool of water. From times past pilgrims from far and wide have come to both places, to bathe in the holy waters and seek salvation.

They need not come to Kataas Raj any more for the first of Lord Shiva’s teardrops has finally dried up and much of the bottom of the Pond – about which it was said that no one had ever plumbed its depths – lies exposed to profane view.

Reason being, the three Cement Plants in the Kahoon Valley given the go-ahead and all possible encouragement by General (Retired) Pervaiz Musharraf and his Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, including the use of unbridled state power to acquire ancient landholdings, are a monstrosity in any case. These Plants are huge, producing about ten-thousand (10,000) tons of cement each a day. Put this together and it comes to thirty-thousand (30,000) tons a day. Imagine the amount of limestone, clay and water required for this infernal production, some of the most beautiful hills on earth – I am not exaggerating – stripped away and water, precious and pure, sucked up from the depths to feed this demand.

The Plants are also a form of vandalism. The Kahoon Valley is a wonder of creation, blessed by the Lord. It is a slice of paradise, rolling hills on both sides, a gentle valley in between, all the way from Kallar Kahar to Choa Saidan Shah.

Katass Raj and its Gem of a Pond will not be the only losers, however. Twenty (20) kilometres to the North West sits Kallar Kahar, a saline lake where migrating birds tarry on their great North-South Transhumance twice a year. It was here that Zaheer ud Din Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, captivated by the natural beauty of these hills, tarried. Here he planted his garden called Bagh-e-Safa, of which the remnants can still be seen.

If this non-stop sucking of water continues, we will see the land turning to mountainous desert. Agriculture will die out because of the aridity, wells will run dry and without the water from Shiva’s tears, farming families will be forced to move away. The beautiful Kahoon Valley will become a conglomerate of Ghost Towns. By the end of the current century, the ghostly hulks of abandoned cement plants will remain to remind us of the avarice of a few evil men.

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