LAHORE: Climate justice, aided with meaningful judicial reviews and directions, should be the order of the day to protect the citizens from the impacts of climate change.

Lahore High Court judge Shahid Karim, keynote speaker at the ‘Climate change & flooding in Pakistan’ on the concluding of the Asma Jahangir Conference on Sunday, highlighted the accomplished and ongoing judicial actions of the LHC which have resulted in better environment for Lahore, in particular, and Punjab, in general’ in the last three years.

He said it was a constitutional obligation for state organs to provide a safe environment for citizens under articles three, nine and 38. He said the judicial history of Pakistan was full of nicely-worded judgements but they could not deliver as a judgement lacking follow-up and actions is not more than a beautiful painting hanging on the wall.

The environmental activism of the honorable court has a specific working framework under which cases related to the environment are kept pending with supervisory directions, until actions sought are done. In cases related to water conversion, the court formed a water commission, which later evolved into a water and environment commission and under the litigation, 100 reports were accomplished.

The measurable achievements of the climate justice can be counted as: installation of 73 water treatment plants in the Sundar real estate, sugar mills in the process of installing such plants across the province, ban on stubble and heat-generating fuel burning, recycling of ablution water through the installation of tanks in mosques, stopping wastage of water at vehicle wash plants, imposing water cess on housing societies, and harvesting of water rain through underground tanks. Justice Karim said the LHC had ruled in the landmark Ruda judgement that no agricultural land can be turned into real estate because “food security is the new name of national security”.

Khawar Mumtaz, former regional counselor and vice-president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ presented the gender perspective of the havoc left by the recent floods and those in 2010 and 2011.

She said the most sufferers of the natural calamities were women and children. Unfortunately, successive governments failed to learn from super floods, and still there is much to be done for warning systems, evacuation and relief works. She said NGOs were the first to hit the ground in calamity-hit areas but their mandate and scope were limited.

Baba Jan, civil rights and climate change activist from Gilgit-Baltistan, minced no words in highlighting the highhandedness of state and non-state actors in the destruction of climate in the land of 7,000 glaciers.

He said the military deployment on either side of the border in Kargil, Siachen and other areas. He demanded that local councils be activated in GB to resolve local issues through local wisdom.

Had the local people been empowered, ruthless drilling for mines, felling of trees and avoiding hydel resources for power production would not have occurred in the scenic areas.

Naz Baloch, parliamentary secretary to climate change, was the next speaker. She said the recent flooding inflicted losses worth $40 billion on Pakistan despite its negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

She said climate change has made heatwaves, unpredictable rains, forest fires, glacial and cloud bursts, smog and increasing temperatures order of the day, and governmental interventions to check. She concluded with urging the community to stand by government actions and chip in with their small and big acts for a safer world.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, climate change and water resources expert, spoke on official approaches to address disaster management, He said there were gaps in policies as these policies should not be seen in isolation but in the contest of institutional capacity.

These policies should never be seen in isolation, but one has to link them with institutional capacity. Ahmad Rafay Alam, environmental lawyer, also spoke.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2022

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