In Pakistan, civil society members have taken legal action against multiple government departments, including the Planning and Development Department, Punjab Environmental Protection Department, and Housing & Urban Development Department. They assert that these departments have neglected their responsibilities regarding the planting, protection, management, and conservation of trees and forests in Punjab. According to the petitioners, this neglect not only violates legal obligations but also infringes upon their constitutional rights, including the rights to life, liberty, dignity, and access to public places of entertainment. This case highlights the government’s failure to address these critical environmental issues.
The central argument in this case is that the Pakistani government must be compelled to enforce environmental laws and policies, such as the Forest Act, the Trees Act, and various forestry and climate change policies. The petitioners argue that this action is essential to protect their fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution. They specifically cite Article 9 (right to life and liberty), Article 14 (right to dignity), Article 26 (right to access public places of entertainment), and Article 38(b) (provision of available leisure places). The petitioners assert that the government’s failure to safeguard natural resources and forests, in light of their drastic depletion and the doctrine of public trust, clearly violates their constitutional rights and warrants judicial intervention.
Following the lawsuit, the Lahore High Court granted a writ of mandamus in favour of the petitioners. In its ruling, the court emphasised that international environmental principles, such as sustainable development, the precautionary principle, the public trust doctrine, inter-and intra-generational equity, water justice, food justice, in dubio pro natura, and the polluter pays principle, are integral to Pakistani jurisprudence.
The court stressed the government’s duty to effectively manage and protect forests and urban tree planting, citing specific laws to support its stance. The government was directed to actively adhere to environmental policies, particularly those related to climate change. The court also underscored the importance of environmental rights and the government’s responsibility to combat the impacts of climate change on forests and biodiversity. The court’s order included several instructions, such as enforcing policies, amending legal requirements, and mandating regular reporting on forest growth. It also addressed penalties for non-compliance and encouraged housing societies to support tree planting in green areas, with consequences for the unjustified removal of trees.
The case documents are accessible via Climate Case Chart: Click here.
Status of the case:
Sheikh Asim Farooq v. Federation of Pakistan, Writ Petition No. 192069 of 2018, Lahore High Court, Judgment of 30 August 2019.
20 October 2023.