Today, Pakistan's forest resource is inadequate to meet her needs


By S.M. ALAM, NIA, Tando Jam
Feb 24 - Mar 02, 2003



Agriculture is a process of bringing plant growth under control and modifying it so as to produce it to maximum benefit to man. Food production has always been the paramount goal. As agricultural system has developed, plants for purposes other than food have come under man's control to produce feed for animals, fiber for clothing, cordage and paper, pulp, rayon, sport goods, wood for fuel and structures and other industrial and medicinal products. Forests are valuable assets for the nation and are the basic natural resources. They provide timber, firewood, forage and other parts. They help in conservation of soil fertility and thus enhance its productivity. Forestry plays a vital role in the sustenance of the poor, particularly the rural population. They also sustain the country's wildlife and provide recreational facilities. Forests play a crucial role in the protection of the environmental providing oxygen to the air, we breathe and influencing in general the climatic phenomenon of the country. Forestry also includes better rainfall in arid regions.

Much of the firewood consumed by man is still collected from forests. By encroaching on these lands and bringing them under cultivation, we are destroying these natural resource systems. Flora and fauna are essential elements in the welfare of human beings, providing the material bases for life food, clothing and fuel. Population expansion, development in agriculture and industry and meeting other essential human needs have caused damage and destruction to wildlife habitats such as forests, range-lands and wetlands.

Today, Pakistan's forest resource is inadequate to meet her needs. Pakistan is mainly a dry country; 51 per cent of the land area is an arid zone, where tree growth is extremely limited. Bushes and grasses grow in this region, but they are devoured by large herds of livestock, which are the mainstay of the inhabitants. Approximately 37 per cent of Pakistan is semi-arid, where tree growth is possible but this area is mostly utilized for rainfed agriculture since marginal agriculture gets preference over tree culture in a food deficit country. Only 12 per cent of Pakistan (16 per cent if Azad Kashmir is included) is sub-humid. This area is located in the Himalaya, Karakaram and Hindu Kush mountains. It is extremely well suited for tree culture because of climate and soil conditions. About 20 per cent of this region is already under dense, productive natural coniferous forests.

Pakistan's forest cover is only 5.4 per cent of the country's area and only 3 per cent is considered commercially productive. It has been recommended by UNO, that there must be at least 20-25 per cent of forest areas in a country, but Pakistan has a meagre of nearly 5.4 per cent. Forests both natural and manmade, which are poorly stocked, slow growing forests, scattered throughout the country. Compared with other provinces, NWFP has a rich endowment of forests, which comprise 14 per cent (or 3.59 million hectare) of its total area. Most are natural and occur at high elevation in fragile mountains in the north. Country's best forests grow in NWFP. Forestry employs about 70,000 people in the province.



Firewood is the main source of domestic energy supplemented by animal west and crop residues. About 90 per cent of the rural population uses these traditional fuels. The existing forests supply less than one-fifth of the timber and one-fourth of the firewood needs the country. The majority of the production comes from scattered trees privately grown on farms and range-lands. It is estimated that farm forests supply more than one-half of the timber and three-fourth of the firewood demand of the nation. The remaining timber demand is met through imports. Range-land forests and cultivated areas have come under substantial pressure in recent years from large increases in human and livestock populations. The human population has doubled to 150 in the 25 years since the 1980. In the last 20 years, the numbers of sheep and goats have more than doubled, this adding to the pressure on forests and range-land.

Overall, deforestation, faulty cropping patterns and other unscientific management practices cause severe erosion resulting in degradation of soils and seriously disturbing the environmental balance. A forestry policy aims at providing the greatest benefit to the society as a whole. In formulating a sound policy, a wide range of physical, institutional, socio-economic and technological factor need to considered. Economic growth, employment and income generation in the rural, areas are a must for the overall development of the country, as is improvement of productivity in agriculture and forestry. Because of poverty and poor education, the population is generally apathetic towards the destruction of the forests. A public relations campaign needs to educate the people on the costs of such degradation in terms of their own livelihoods.

The institutional framework is the key to optimal programme implementation for economic development. Efficient mechanisms for increasing production and education are necessary. The use of appropriate and modern technology. Modern technology is required in forest management, development of the communication system, forest unventory and planning and forest soils study and survey, low- impact logging, extraction and transportation can only be achieved by new methods, while modern facilities and sufficient funding need to be provided for education and training of forest departments, public and private sector employees. Depletion of forests and watersheds adversely affects flora and fauna, biodiversity and genetic resources. Illegal logging, watercourse diversion, land clearance and poaching of wildlife must all be stopped.


Population growth and rising living standards create demand for food and wood. Unplanned logging, enroachment on forest land and the slower growth rates and low yield of tropical high forests have caused great concern to forest planners. Forestry is faced with the challenge to increase the contribution of national forests to the economic development. This challenge can be met through the enrichment of existing forests, optimal use of marginal and wastelands and the creation of new plantations of desirable fast-growing species. As the recent Earth Summit, the environment, preservation of biodiversity and protection of forests were emphasized as essential for the maintenance of a healthy bioshpere. A national forestry policy must address economic development welfare of the people and preservation of the environment.



To overcome these shortcomings, the basic objectives of the policy should aim to:

*Increase productivity of forests in terms of wood and non-wood products;
*Sustainably manage existing natural forests as a renewable national asset;
*Involve village people in planting and managing woodlots, homesteads and farmlands;
*Undertake a massive afforestation programme on all denuded and degraded public and private lands;
*Manage protected areas primarily for conservation of ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity;
*Arrest deforestation and restrict transfer of forest lands for other uses;
*Adopt agroforestry practices and wherever, mixed farming to improve economic benefits of forestry in rural areas;
*Promote wood-based industries for primary and down streams products;
*Rehabilitate degraded waterbeds;
*Increase efficient forest management and utilization of forest products; and
*Create an atmosphere for full participation of the private sector, farmers and NGOs in forestry development.