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Balochistan’s promising forestry sector lacks proper care

Forestry is an important sector, which has been the victim of sheer negligence of economic planners in Balochistan. No serious efforts were made toward forestry development and its promotion in the province. Fact of the matter is that forestry in the province has been confined to the protection of existing natural forests. No efforts were directed to raisef large plantations under natural conditions in potential areas of the province. Forestry, it is generally observed, does not attract the investors, as investments in this sector pays back after a longtime. Investors always look for quick and short-term returns; hence they preferred orchard development instead of forestry in Balochistan. This is the main reason that forestry sector always faced problem of paucity of funds. Hence, no mega project for forestry development could be launched in the province for shortage of funds.

Ziarat in Balochistan possesses the second largest Juniper forests in the world. Besides Juniper, other major species include Almond, Khujak, Olea and Wild Ash in Ziarat. Conservation of Juniper forest needs a long-term strategy on the part of the government. The objective of the forestry is to improve and expand the tree plantation, stabilize sand dunes, preserve the natural flora and fauna, complete and establish recreational parks and to raise the water table.

Pakistani authorities passed Environmental Protection Act in 1997 as a part of national conservation strategy. Illegal woodcutting poses serious threat to Juniper conversation. Provincial Forest Department (PFD) launched a project for conservation and management of Juniper forest through zoning and raising forest nurseries. The state’s Guzara forests were allocated to the community for grazing and fuel purpose, gradually got exhausted owing to population pressure and encroachment practices. In 2003, Sui Southern Gas Company limited (SSGC) launched Rs 370 million project for laying 92km long gas pipeline of 8 inch radius, to supply gas from Quetta to Ziarat and its adjacent areas. With the availability of gas to the people of Ziarat, the practices of using Juniper as fuel wood would considerably be checked and Juniper forests be protected to an extent. The gas supply project from Quetta to Ziarat has benefited 29,000 population of the area.

The non-availability of gas in Ziarat was the single major cause of deforestation in the valley.

The main issue is the ownership of wasteland in the province. The issue should be settled on priority basis in order to conserve the soil base and protect the wildlife.

The objectives set under former government of President Pervez Musharraf in the forestry sub sector in Balochistan were to improve and expand the tree plantation, stabilize sand dunes, preserve the natural flora and fauna and establish recreational parks at Quetta, Ziarat, Kalat and to develop watershed activities to raise the water table. Rs.30.259 million were allocated in the revised Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) 2001-2002 in order to achieve these objectives. The structural changes were made in line with devolution plan in the organizational setup of forest department. The purpose was to achieve more efficiency and target orientation.

A separate Directorate of Rangeland Conservation was established at the initial stage. The decision was taken in view of the severe drought conditions and its recurrences in recent years in Balochistan. In the environment sector, the environmental protection agency was enabled to procure pollution necessary equipment worth Rs.9.5 million in order to check environment at a given spot.

The reforms in forestry sector under Musharraf administration were fruitful to a great extent. The revenue receipt targets exceeded fixed target during the period. A receipt target of Rs.10.522 million was fixed by Forest Department for the year 1999-2000 but the department collected a revenue of Rs.31.224 million from the proceeds of timber, firewood, Mazri, Wildlife hunting licenses etc. 55 percent receipt target in the forestry sub sector was achieved during first four months of the FY 2001-02. During the FY 2002-03, an amount of Rs.28.568 million was allocated in the revised PSDP with a view to improve the environment in general.

Under the Schemes of Sand dunes Stabilization, 604 acres were stabilized/ maintained and 45 acres of agriculture land were reclaimed. Canal side plantation and road side plantation were carried out and maintained. About 3,000 acres of state/community forest were developed as rangelands. Three Research Nurseries at Khuzdar, Zhob and Quetta zones established. The 30 km fencing around the Hazar Ganji Chiltan national park Quetta and Muslakh range was carried out to protect the Wildlife/Range Natural Areas. About 18,000 acres of depleted state/community forest land in 15 districts were rehabilitated. Provincial Forest Department (PFD) planted one million trees in small and big towns during the FY 2002-03, while ten million plants were planted in the FY 2003-04. Only in Quetta City approximately 50,000 trees were planted, while 0.9 million plants were handed over to the masses for plantation.

There is a need to erect recycling plants to check the use of waste and contaminated water for vegetation. The communities at grassroots level must be involved for sustainable development of land resources in Balochistan. Overgrazing, deforestation, depletion of water resources, increasing population and recurrence of drought poses serious threats to conservation and management of forests in the province. Longer-term initiatives and adequate funds are needed to develop and conserve land resources on sustainable basis.

There is a need to launch awareness campaigns at community level involving communities in forestry development in the province. The protection of natural forests of Juniper, Olive and Chilghoza in Balochistan should be the foremost duty of the government and all the concerned departments, agencies and NGOs working to arrest the environmental degradation in Balochistan.

Experts are of the view that the impact of deforestation goes beyond the loss of a valuable land resource. It diminishes the state’s ability to meet the basic needs of its people. It often triggers a cycle of flooding, substantial soil erosion and sometimes desertification. It has a powerful impact on state’s capacity and therefore, national power. A country, which is unable to provide drinking water to its citizens and does not have sufficient arable land to feed its people, is a weakened nation. Water shortages are exacerbated by pollution, which increases disease, cuts farm yield and has a cumulative impact on agriculture, livestock and fisheries.

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