Islamabad: The Lahore High Court (LHC) in a landmark judgement has declared it mandatory for all housing societies in Punjab to plant at least two trees in front of each newly constructed house and ensure land for green belts, as given in the Punjab Private Housing Schemes and Land Sub-Division Rules 2010.

In its 78 page judgement, Justice Jawad Hassan of the LHC issued guidelines to all federal and provincial departments in Punjab to manage, conserve, sustain, maintain, protect and grow forests and plant trees in urban areas.

The petitioners had approached the LHC for implementation of the National Climate Change Policy 2012, the National Forest Policy 2015, the Punjab Plantation and Maintenance of Trees Act, 1974 and the Forest Policy Statement, 1999 to increase the forest cover and plantation of trees in Pakistan and Punjab.

The court has also imposed a fine of Rs25,000 (Dh581) for chopping down a tree.

“The Secretary Cooperative and Registrar Cooperative are ordered to issue directions to the housing societies and authorities for planting at least two trees in the green belt in front of each house mentioning in their allotment letters and by-laws of the society,” says the court’s orders.

The court has also directed the monitoring 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, says the order.

About schools, colleges, higher education institutes, hospitals, parking sites etc, the court has specifically mentioned a policy for planting trees in open spaces as well as waiting areas/car parks.

In the judgement, the Punjab government has been directed that laws be made to impose penalties and heavy fines for cutting, removing and damaging any tree without the permission of the authority concerned.

The court has also directed all the authorities concerned to take steps to protect, manage and conserve the forests and trees in urban areas.

“They should make manifest and obvious efforts to enlarge the forests and trees in Pakistan and the Punjab.”

The court asked the government to revise the requirement for planting three trees per acre by the occupier of a land and the penalty of Rs1 per tree.

Every responsible ministry, division, department and authority etc shall publish annual reports in which it will 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 laws, says the judgement.

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 judgement makes it clear.

The Local Government, PHA, DHA, LDA and all others authorities/societies, Secretary Forest and other relevant authorities are directed to define a mechanism for urban forestation by learning from Urban Plantation Policy.