LHC asked to protect the ecosystem by ordering usage of double-side of papers

Lahore: A petition was filed in Pakistan’s Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday requesting it to issue orders for using the double side of the paper to end massive deforestation and protect the country’s ecosystem.

The petition moved by Advocate Faizullah Khan Niazi also requested the LHC to declare that deliberate wastage of paper by using the only single side as against right to [healthy and clean] life and liberty, envisaged under Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan, contending that the current rate of deforestation in Pakistan posed a huge threat to forests, trees, wildlife, environment and the wellbeing of the citizens of Pakistan and the province of Punjab, specifically.

The petition seeks to highlight the issue of paper wastage, deforestation and the consequent adverse environmental impact of the same.

Reportedly, 61,520 cases were filed between October 2016 and September 2017 in Indian Supreme Court. For filing of every case, at least eight copies of paper books are required to print. Assuming each paper book has 100 pages, then 49.2 million sheets of paper would have been used in this period. Using double-sided prints alone would have saved about 2,950 trees for fresh filings in a year,” the petition stated.

The petition added that 246 million litres of water would be saved with reduction of 246 million paper sheets usage.

It is reported that one sheet of paper takes about 10 litres of water to make. Therefore, if the double-sided printed paper had been used in filings, it is estimated that the same would have saved nearly 2,953 trees and 246 million litre water.

According to a report National Environment Information System, a project of United Nations Development Programme, the rate of deforestation in Pakistan is estimated at 0.2% to 0.5% annually which is the highest in the world.

The report found that the natural forest’s total cover had reduced from 3.59 million hectares to 3.32 million hectares making 27,000 hectares annually. The report also predicts that trees are decreasing at such an alarming speed that all forest area in Pakistan would be consumed within the next 15 years.

The petition contends that with tens of thousands cases filed annually in Pakistan and a total of 1.8 million cases pending before the courts, reducing the amount of paper used by mandating double-sided printing in all documents placed before the court, could also save thousands of trees and litres of water.

According to Paper and Paperboard Production and Consumption for Pakistan statistics, the per capita consumption of paper in 2017 was 7 kg per person.

“With a population of 220 million, this amounts to a total consumption of 1540,000,000 kg of paper per year,” the petition contends

The Government of Punjab, Registrar, Director-General District judiciary, Federal Cabinet Division and Ministry of Climate Change made respondents.

Trees play a critical ecological role in sustaining human life by purifying the air and water resources.  Given Pakistan’s deteriorating air quality index and the smog situation, protecting our forest cover has become more important than ever before.

A Medical Journal Lancet in its 2015 report found that pollution was a cause of a whopping 22% of annual deaths in Pakistan, adding that the majority of deaths were due to air pollution.

Trees also play a vital role in ensuring a supply of clean drinking water as they are instrumental in slowing runoff and filtering rainwater that refills underground storage tanks or aquifers.

Without adequate trees and plantation, fertile soil that is needed to grow crops is washed away in rainstorms, decreasing the amount of suitable soil available for agriculture. Over 40% of all industrial wood traded globally is used by the pulp and paper industry.

The petition further contended that the illegal and unethical forest practices were associated with some pulp and paper operations. This has led to destructive and devastating impacts on some of the world’s most ecologically valuable places and species.”

The unsustainable pulp and paper operations could be considered as one of the major contributing factors in diminishing forests, the petition contended.

In 2011, the US Department of the Interior, while recognizing the need to reduce the use of paper, issued double-sided printing guidelines as early as 2011.

The petition contends that Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed the right to life for every citizen of Pakistan. “The Honourable Superior Courts of Pakistan unequivocally have at multiple instances stated that the interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution and the right contained therein mandates the inclusion of the right to a clean and healthy environment.”

It maintained that the right to life meant not only the right to live but live in a clean, green and healthy environment. “The excessive and negligent usage of paper as is being carried out currently in courts and government departments across the province of Punjab which causes extreme adverse environmental impacts is an unjustified and unlawful infringement of the fundamental constitutional right to life of the Petitioner and people across the province.” 

Therefore, the petition added, the reduction of the use of paper in Punjab’s government departments and courts would lead to a decrease in overall usage of paper which would decrease deforestation. “This is in line with the principles of environmental justice.”

“Pakistan is already suffering the extreme effects of air pollution and environmental degradation in the form of smog. Estimates from the WHO Global Health Observatory, state that about 200 deaths per 100 000 population are attributable to environmental factors in Pakistan.”

According to estimates of The World Bank, 22000 premature adult deaths in Pakistan are due to outdoor air pollution while 40 million cases of acute respiratory infections and 28000 deaths annually are due to indoor pollution.

The petition further argued that failure to mitigate the excessive usage of paper and cutting down of trees is a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Punjab. It added that failure to mitigate the excessive consumption of paper was against the principles of environmental justice.

The petition also asked for directions for amendments in the relevant High Court Rules and Procedures to employ double-sided printing to reduce paper wastage.

The petition prayed the high court to issue directions for introducing policies for reducing paper wastage including the adoption of electronic communication and double-side printing. The petition further requested the high court to form a high-level committee to investigate and make recommendations for reducing the use of paper across courts and government offices and departments in the province of Punjab.

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