ISLAMABAD: The chief justice on Monday gave mineral water companies a week to improve their functioning, warning them to either stop defrauding the public or else quit the industry.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the exploitation of water resources by mineral water companies operating in the country.

As the hearing went under way, water technologist Professor Dr Ahsan Siddiqui told the bench that mineral water companies were lying when they said they added minerals to water extracted from underground. Minerals occur naturally in water, and these bottled water companies replace the naturally occurring minerals with artificial minerals, he said.

For every glass of water, three other glasses of water are wasted. Mineral water companies use 7.5 billion litres of groundwater monthly, and 1.5 billion litres of polluted water are released back into the underground, the professor informed the court.

The court was further told that expired chemicals were being used to test water.

Annoyed, the chief justice remarked that the bench had no soft spot for the mineral water companies operating in the country.

End this fraud with the public. We cant let our children drink this water, Justice Nisar stated, adding that these mineral water companies would turn Pakistan into Ethiopia.

The top judge remarked that these companies would have to pay for all the water they have extracted from the underground. They have stolen billions of rupees worth of water. People should boycott [these] mineral water companies. We will not allow the water to be stolen.

Justice Nisar further observed that if the mineral water companies had been paying taxes on their use of the water, then the dam fund would not need money from anyone else.

What remains is registration of a case against [these companies], he stated.

The chief justice then warned the companies to improve their working within a week, or else they would be shut down.

He also summoned a meeting of all stakeholders, including advocate generals and representatives from the government and the mineral water companies, today evening to review the matter.