ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Tuesday restrained cutting of trees and razing of hills in Murree without the specific approval of the competent authorities.

The directions were issued by a single bench consisting of Justice Jawad Hassan who had taken up a petition moved by Parvez Abbasi, an environmentalist, through his counsel Barrister Sardar Taimoor Aslam Khan.

The petition highlighted the need for enacting a specific legislation for protecting trees and areas around the Murree tourist resort.

The counsel argued that Kahuta, Murree and Kotli Sattian had been declared national park areas but were being allegedly destroyed through chopping of trees and other anti-environmental activities.

In response, the high court issued notice to the Punjab government with a direction to file a report. Besides, the additional secretary Environment Protection Department, the additional secretary Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Department Lahore and a senior officer from the Ministry of Climate Change Islamabad were ordered to appear before the court on Jan 31 along with WWF Director General Hammad Naqi Khan with satellite images of the mountains of Murree.

Likewise, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh from the Environment Department will also appear before the court to explain what steps had been taken by them to stop the hill razing and tree cutting in these areas and whether any efforts were being made to introduce a mountain specific legislation.

The counsel pleaded before the court that his client had launched an initiative to protect the environment of Murree, called the Murree Development Forum (MDF), with an objective to strengthen the mountain ecosystem through proper legislation.

The counsel added that there was no specific legislation both at the federal and the provincial levels to control affairs relating to the mountain delimitation, mountain institutions, development and protection which included avoidance of cutting of trees and regulating all affairs related to them.

The counsel pleaded that it was the mandatory duty of the provincial government to adopt measures for the preservation of the mountain ecosystem under the respective laws because under the second schedule to the Punjab Government Rules of Business 2011, the environment and the forestry wildlife departments had the mandate to make proper legislation and formulate policies regarding wildlife and fisheries.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2022

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