FORESTRY'S IMPORTANCE IN NATIONAL ECONOMY
By Dr. syed manzoor Alam NIA, Tandojam
Jan 03 - 16, 2000
Forests are valuable assests to the nation. They provide timber, fire-wood, forage and medicinal plants. These help in conservation of soil fertility and thus enhance its productivity. They also provide the vital coverage to the country's water sheds and regulate supply of water. They also sustain the country's wild life and provide recreational facilities. These materials support and sustain such important industries as paper, news prints, match, plywood, hardboard, pulp rayon, sports goods and a host of cottage industries. Forests also induce better rainfall in arid regions.
Man's dependence on trees for the essential of his existence has been of paramount importance in his life since the human race began. To-day almost all the necessities of life are in one way or the other connected with the forest wealth. Besides glorifying the beauty of nature, the trees prove to be helpful to the economy. The economic growth of an agricultural country like ours is dependent on heavy plant production and its wide distribution. The trees help the industrial revolution in a big way and provide excellent raw materials for industry. The wooded area in our country is 4.5 percent of the total which is very insufficient. The universally desirable standard is 20 percent. Our annual requirement of wood is about 22 million cubic feet of timber and we hardly produce 11 million cubic feet and the balance has to be imported in foreign exchange. The total area of the country is 197 million acres, of which forest area constitutes only about 72 lakh acres. Moreover, only 47 lakh acres or 2.4 percent of the total has been classified as productive forests. It is estimated that with an increase of 50,000 acres per year in future afforestation programme, it will required about 100 years to raise the present meagre forest area by about another 2.5 percent. Trees are beneficial to mankind in many ways. They help to improve the environment. Trees can help to control water and wind erosion, serve to regulate temperatures in the cropping zone, supply wood, influence the cycling of nutrients significantly, fix atmospheric nitrogen, compete with crops for light, water and nutrients, influence biological equlibria involving pests and their natural enemies. Some woody plants such as Acacia arabica, Azadirachta indica, Dalbergia sisso and Zizyphus mauritiana are grown in or on borders of the cultivated fields, which have come economic values. As regards fruit bearing trees, we have the example of our neighbouring country India. A large number of these trees live at public roads and highways. Perhaps the tradition emanates from the earliest grand trunk road, where shaddy trees, laden with fruit, were planted along the road for the benefit of mankind. To plant trees is to ensure for the community unending social, economic and environmental advantages. It is bequeath what our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) described as Sadqa-i-Jariya.
Unfortunately, ours is wood deficit country. Although, our efforts over the past four decades have enabled us to increase the forest area from 2 to 5 percent, our wood resources still lag far behind our requirements. We have to spend Rs.1.75 billion every year on imports. Trees are like jewels strung around the earth. They add to the beauty and glitter of our planet on the one hand and fulfil our innumerable needs on the other. They add fragrance and colour to enliven the environment which motivates man towards creativity. Like all other living beings, trees, too bow to Allah Almighty in prayer and praise. It will, therefore, be sinful to pluck even one leaf unnecessarily. That would affect the enviornmental balance of our planet.
No serious effort was made in the past to increase the number of trees. A larger number were cut down, while fewer were planted. To-day, only five percent of our land is dotted with trees. It is not enough to merely plant trees in fields and gardens and on farms and orchards and along roods and canals. They have to watered, nursed and protected till they are full grown trees. Many species are planted as ornamentals or shade trees such as cordia obliqua, Acacia nilotica, Albizia lebbeck, Morus alba, Tamarix ophylla and Dalberyia sissoo, mangifera indica, Tamarix aphylla, Zizyphus nummularia. Some of the important trees species grown in Pakistan are poplar, mulbery, Eucalyptus, Pinus radita, hard and soft wood tree species. Other trees are deodar, Fir, Chir Spuree, Keo, Phulai, pine, Babool, Shisham, Lignum etc.
The average annual per hectare yield for the wooded forest are in Pakistan is 0.21 cum. as compared to 1.65 cum. in case of UK and 1.19 cum. in USA. For increasing potential yield and area the plants based on realistic strategy evolved are: Management of forests on scientific basis, introduction of social forestry, Planning of waste and denuded lands in high rainfall areas, raising industrial wood species on suitable soil.
Raising and extension of nurseries to provide adequate plants to planting agencies and farmers have been considered as essential attributes which need to be implemented under strong and vigilant insight. Forests make an enormous contribution to the environmental stability on the one hand and play a very significant role in food security for millions of people on the other. A very important link between food production and forest is the role of trees in keeping intact the fragile eco-system in the watersheds as well as the low rainfall zones of a country. Excessive deforestation not only causes soil erosion and disappearance of rich agriculture land but also because of its effect on the water regime, is a major drought threat to the agriculture in the areas situated downstream. Keeping in view so much significance it would be appropriate to say that forest play an important role in the economy of the country. However, Pakistan is extremely deficient in forest resources. The forest area for the last four decades has remained almost static. Pakistan has nearly 4.5 percent of the area under forest. This percentage is too low as compared with an optimum desired level of 20 to 25 percent.
A tree cover breaks the velocity of the raindrops before falling on the ground, this substantially reducing the kinetic energy which is otherwise so great that soil many times the volume of raindrop would be disrupted and eroded. Of all the natural resources gifted to the mankind, sunlight, soil and water are the most important ones. These resources have sustained the existence of man from the very beginning but in recent years with increasing population, the demand of food has increased enormously. Out of the total earth are of 510 million square kilometers, water is spread over 360 million square kilometers making 150 million square kilometers of land available for man's use. The earth receives about 10 million kilocalories of solar energy per square meter per year. Out of this only 1 to 2 percent is absorbed by the plants and in turn, the net plant production is about 0.3 percent of the light reaching the land surface. The optimum utilization of natural resources in general and effect of forests in particular are of vital importance to mankind.
In earlier times, when the rate of growth of population was very low, man was free to utilize the natural resources wastefully. With the increase in population and society becoming more industrialized and urbanized, man has no other alternative but to put greater demands on natural resources, including water, land, vegetation, animals, etc. causing cutting and encroaching of forests, increasing pollution and this disturbing the ecological system. Although, Pakistan's forested areas are relatively small compared to the land under cultivation and desert, the forests are of vital importance. Pakistan's forests are of basic natural resource which provides food, fodder for cattle, fuel wood, wood for building and other materials; they provide shelter and protection, and are source of income and employment, providing oxygen to the air we breath and influencing the climate. They protect the soil against erosion and help to prevent flood and desertification.
Wood is an important source of energy and in Pakistan the shortage of fuel wood alone presents an energy crisis for rural population which may be as profound and intractable than that connected with oil. To day, Pakistan has only 4.75 percent of the area under forests as compared to a desired level of 20-25 percent. There is a great need for increasing forests for the betterment of the country. Wood is at present, mainly used for construction, timber and fuel wood purposes. Only a small quantity is used for manufacturing industrial carriages, boat building, pencils, coal mine timbering products e.g matches, sport goods, plywood, particle board, bus and truck body buildings, railways etc. However forestry as it exists today in Pakistan is generally characterized lack of adequate area under forests, very low per capita consumption of wood and use of outdated forest technology in planting and harvesting operations. There are a number of factors responsible for this state of affairs. Firstly, Pakistan inherited a very small forest area at the time of independence. Secondly, most of the land area in Pakistan is arid and received low precipitation on which natural tree growth is not possible without artificial irrigation. Further, in view of importance of agriculture, forestry development was given low priority despite the fact that population has increased three-fold with the concomitant rise in living standard of the people during this period. Research is essential for the development of technology in any field which is suitable for local conditions.