Members of civil society filed suit against Pakistan, (impleading several departments including the Planning and Development Department, Punjab Environmental Protection Department, and Housing & Urban Development Department), for failure to plant, protect, manage, preserve, and conserve the trees and forests in Punjab in violation of statutory obligations and petitioners’ constitutional rights. Petitioners requested a writ of mandamus under Article 199 of Pakistan’s Constitution and alleged the government’s conduct violated their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 9 (right of life liberty), Article 14 (right of dignity), Article 26 (right of access to public places of entertainment) and Article 38(b) (provision of available leisure places) of the Constitution. Petitioners asked the court, inter alia, to appraise the government’s implementation of relevant policies to increase forest cover; to implement the Forest Act, 1927 (the “Forest Act”) and the Punjab Plantation and Maintenance of Trees Act, 1974 (the “Trees Act”) by planting trees; to present a timeline for implementation, and to initiate appropriate proceedings against officers who failed to discharge their duties.
The High Court of Lahore allowed the writ of mandamus, ordering the government to fulfill their obligations under the law “to safely manage, conserve, sustain, maintain, protect and grow forests and plant trees in urban cities.” The court summarized a variety of requirements under natural resource, development, local government, and international law to establish the government’s obligations to protect the forest including the “Forest Act” and “Trees Act.” It directed the government to take its legal obligations seriously in implementing related policies, including the National Climate Change Policy, 2012, the National Forest Policy, 2015, the Forest Policy Statement, 1999 and Punjab Environment Policy, 2015. It noted that if the government had properly fulfilled its legal obligations “in letter and spirit” “the forest of Pakistan could have been saved [from] further depletion and deforestation.” In its discussion of relevant law, the court touched on the right to a healthy environment, the precautionary principle, and the public trust doctrine. Specifically, in regard to climate change, the court summarized the negative impacts of climate change on forests and obligations under the National Climate Change Policy, 2012 to protect biodiversity and prevent wetland degradation by reducing deforestation.
At the time of the decision, the involved government bodies had already prepared an Urban Trees Plantation Policy under direction of the court resulting in “massive” plantings across the Punjab area. In addition to instructions to implement the laws, the court order included instructions to the government bodies to consider revising requirements and penalties under the Trees Act, publish annual reports on expansion of the forest area, impose penalties against delinquent officers, and to issue directions to the housing societies and authorities to support the planting of trees in the green belt and issue penalties for cutting those trees down.
|08/30/2019||Judgment||Download||No summary available.|