Today, the conservation, protection and improvement of human environment are major issues all over the world. Human environment consists of both physical environment and biological environment. Physical environment covers land, water and air. Biological environment includes plants, animals and other organisms. Both physical and biological environment are inter-dependent. Industrialization, urbanization, explosion of population, over-exploitation of resources, disruption of natural ecological balances, destruction of a multitude of animal and plant species for economic reasons are the factors which have contributed to environmental deterioration.
In Pakistan, law relating to environment can be found in various statutes. Pakistan has a long tradition of environmental legislation, which is partly inherited from Mughals and British India. All the environment related aspects like land use, forestry, canal irrigation, wildlife protection, energy development, pesticide use, and noise pollution have been regulated to some degree in the past.
The development of environmental legislation in Pakistan can be divided in three different periods:
- The first period of environmental legislation runs from 1958 to 1965. In this period, seven specific environmental laws were promulgated.
- The second period runs from 1970 to 1976. During this period, comparatively lesser laws were enacted.
- The third period of environmental legislation runs from 1983 to 1997. This is the most effective period for environmental legislation in the country. The first Environmental Protection Ordinance was promulgated in 1983. With this enactment, a series of legislation making process was initiated that culminated in the enactment of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan itself contains no statement of principles or policy about the rights and obligations of the state and its citizens with respect to the environment. It does however confer concurrent legislative power on the Federation and the Provinces to legislate in respect of environmental pollution and ecology. Prior to promulgation of Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance (PEPO) of 1983 and the recent passage of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEP-Act) 1997, Pakistan had laws that contain provisions for environmental protection. These laws dealt with land use, water quality, air quality, noise, toxic and hazardous substances, solid waste and effluents, marine & fisheries, forest conservation, mineral development, energy, public health, etc. They were not effective; punishment for violations was mild and easy to circumvent. The laws included:
- The Pakistan Penal Code, 1860
- The Canal Drainage Act, 1873
- The Punjab Local Government Ordinance, 1979
- The Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965; and The Motor Vehicles Rules, 1969
- The Factories Act, 1934
- The West Pakistan Fisheries Ordinance, 1961
- The Forests Act, 1927
- The Boilers Act, 1923
- The Pakistan Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Rules 1986
- The Antiquities Act, 1975
- The West Pakistan Epidemic Diseases Act, 1959, etc.