Trees plantation and environmental jurisprudence

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  • The bureaucracy needs to pull up its socks

 

By Sheraz Zaka

 

Recently the Lahore High court gave a landmark judgement authored by Mr Justice Jawad Hassan regarding plantation of trees across the province of Punjab. In multiple petitions filed before the court, I also had the honour to appear as a lawyer in this case on behalf of the non-governmental organisation known as ‘Human Voice.’ The judgement is very comprehensive in which the learned judge directs the Punjab government that all the applicable laws and the relevant directions and judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and High Courts with respect to trees plantation and climate change, shall be implemented in letter and spirit in order to plant, protect and preserve the forest. All the Respondents, including the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Forest Department, shall take steps to protect, manage and conserve the forests and trees in the urban areas, and in fact make manifest and obvious efforts, to enlarge the forests and increase the trees in Pakistan and the Punjab. The requirement for planting three trees per acre by the occupier of a land (Section 3 of the Trees Act) and the penalty of one rupee per tree (Section 4 of the Trees Act) may be revised.

It was also directed that every responsible Ministry, Division, Department and Authority shall publish a yearly report in which it shall highlight the expansion of the forest area, tree plantation campaign in the urban areas and also the action taken by them in compliance of the said laws. The competent authority is further directed to impose the penalty against the relevant officers for omission of their duties, if any, under the respective laws as well as the disciplinary laws and also against the public for cutting the trees. The Secretary Cooperatives and Registrar Cooperatives shall issue directions to the housing societies and authorities for (i) planting at least two (2) trees in the green belt in front of each house, mentioning this in their allotment letters and bye-laws of the society (ii) impose heavy penalties and punishments for cutting the same, at least Rs25,000 per tree and to (iii) monitor the trees through respective officers of the society/authority. The treatment and maintenance of the trees will be the sole responsibility of the society/authority concerned. The Punjab Government is also directed to revise and amend such laws where clear direction and command is not entrusted to any authority as under the Punjab Rules of Business, the Secretary Forest, the Secretary of Cooperative and the Local Governments have a clear mandate to make laws and policies, under Schedule-II of the Punjab Government Rules of Business. It was noted during the hearing that due to the efforts of the Government and other Departments, this year massive tree plantation took place. The same or more effort must be done and monitored by the relevant authorities each year through proper book logging and designated officers of the area to count, monitor, manage trees every week and submit report and status of the same to the Head of the authority for publishing in its annual report.

if both the federal as well as provincial governments implement the judgements of superior courts in letter and spirit there is no further need to devise any new climate change policy. We already have a plethora of laws which have been comprehensively interpreted by superior court judgements with respect to climate change and environmental impact. Actually, the real problem lies in the execution of policy

The relevant authority should also number the trees to keep the track of each tree in urban areas (streets, road, parks, market and green belts). The Department shall, through the media and other means, inform the public and create awareness, including lodging a complaint for any violation of the law for cutting of the trees to the concerned person who maintains data and manages trees and they will take strict action through respective laws. The Urban Plantation Policy shall be consulted by all the departments. The Local Government, PHA (Parks and Horticultural Authority), DHA, LDA and all other authorities and societies, The Secretary Forest and other relevant authorities are directed to define a mechanism for urban forestation by learning from Urban Plantation Policy.

All the authorities, including DHA (Defence Housing Authority), LDA ( Lahore Development Authority), FDA (Faisalabad Development Authority) and other relevant authorities, are directed by the judgement to make and adopt comprehensive policies with respect to plantation of trees in urban areas with experience of Urban Plantation Policy and make their own policy under respective laws and immediately start planting of trees with the request to PHA and other departments, and maintain the same by imposing fine and penalty to the officers of the area or any citizen. The school, colleges, higher education institutions, hospitals, parking sites and so on are specifically directed to make a policy for planting trees in open spaces and waiting areas/car parks. The Government of Punjab through its respective departments shall make laws in imposing penalty and heavy fine for cutting, removing and damaging any tree with permission of the concerned authority including EPA, PHA and consider all mitigating measures at the time of public hearing of any project such as Initial Environmental Examination (IEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

In my view, if both the federal as well as provincial governments implement the judgements of superior courts in letter and spirit there is no further need to devise any new climate change policy. We already have a plethora of laws which have been comprehensively interpreted by superior court judgements with respect to climate change and environmental impact. Actually the real problem lies in the execution of policy, laws and the dicta laid down by the superior courts judgements. In this aspect the executive comprising of bureaucracy needs to pull up its socks and implement the orders of the superior courts in pith and substance to address the deleterious effects of climate change which transpire in the form of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The writer may be reached at [email protected]