Sheikh Asim Farooq v. Federation of Pakistan etc.
Principle law(s): National Forest Policy
Side A: Sheikh Asim Farooq (Individual)
Side B: Pakistan (Government)
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.
Related laws and policies
This policy (supported by caveats in the National Environment Policy) addresses the sustainable use of renewable natural resources. It acknowledges the multiple functions of Pakistan's forests, such as carbon storage for climate change mitigation. However, there is a particularly strong focus on forests' role in mountain areas where they provide protection from soil erosion and reduction of downstream siltation; and crucially, watershed protecÂ¬tion. It also notes the potential of forests to support local livelihoods in terms of provision of non-timber forest products (mushrooms, medicinal plants etc.). Much of Pakistan's forests have now been cleared, increasing the importance of managing what remains under a framework of sustainable use. In particular the sustainable use should benefit marginalised groups such as women and children. Use of existing resources should be complemented with forest restoration activities to attempt to regenerate forests in order to safeguard economic growth. Approaches to achieve the desired sustainable use of forests include the substitution of firewood and timber (specifically discouraging the use of rare species in government buildings); and the prevention of encroachment on remaining forest lands through regulation of grazing. In order to finance the protection of watersheds and safeguard Pakistan's water supply, the forest policy stipulates the creation of a forest fund. The fund may also be used to finance the promotion of forestry research and education in Pakistan. The National Forest Policy 2015 is a broad update of the 2010 document.