Chief justice questions Islamabad administration over where it has planted 500,000 trees
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday took notice of the incumbent government’s ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami’ initiative, summoning the secretary of the Climate Change Ministry to submit all records of the project.
A two-member bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan questioned where the Islamabad administration had planted 500,000 trees, as it had earlier claimed. “You must have planted all the trees in Bani Gala [the residence of Prime Minister Imran Khan]. Trees are being cut down in Islamabad. Crooked trees have been planted on Kashmir Highway. There is no beauty in the trees planted,” he said. “There are no trees in Nathia Gali, Malam Jabba, and even Murree,” he added. The Capital Development Authority’s climate director claimed the organization had not been properly funded for two years.
The court also issued contempt of court notices to the Sindh and Punjab governments over their failure to submit reports on their tree plantation projects.
The chief justice took special aim at the Sindh government, ordering it to plant trees along lakes and highways. He claimed the affairs of the Sindh government were “beyond comprehension” and they appeared to be “run differently” than the rest of the country. He said the government should not pay travel and ‘dearness’ allowances to Sindh officials who appeared in court, claiming if they continued to resist court orders, they could be found in contempt of court and sent to jail.
Addressing the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa environment secretary, Justice Ahmed accused his entire department of being thieves. “You are the head of that department; you should be sent to jail,” he said. “Naran Kaghan has become a heap of garbage. There are no trees around lakes and thousands of trees have been cut down in Kumrat. I have seen the trees being cut down myself. No one should be allowed to cut them down,” he said.
The court directed the government to provide complete details of the funds spent on the ’10 Billion Tree Tsunami’ thus far, including records of expenditure and their justification, as well as the total count of trees planted along with photographic evidence and satellite imaging.
The PTI-led government in September 2019 allocated around Rs. 125 billion for the ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami,’ claiming the first phase of the project would span four years and see the plantation of 3.29 billion saplings. In its original plan, the government said Rs. 109.38 billion of the sum would be allocated for forest development, with provincial governments footing Rs. 38 billion of this bill.
Additionally, it said Rs. 15.59 billion would be allocated for to preserve wildlife, and Rs. 210 million for the Green Pakistan Program.