Definition: A forest is best defined as an ecosystem or assemblage of ecosystems dominated by trees and other woody vegetation.
Vegetation is the plant cover of the Earth and includes trees, shrubs, grasses, lianas (vines which climb up trees) and mosses. Of these, trees are the most important to humans because they supply timber and firewood. They also help reduce run-off, soil erosion and air pollution. Of late, environmentalists and geographers are stressing the importance of trees. In fact, it is claimed that forests should cover 20 to 25 per cent of a country in order to maintain a balanced economy. Trees must be planted extensively and protected wisely for future generations.
Forests are extensive, continuous areas of land dominated by trees. The desired level of forests is 20- 30% of the total area of a country. Basically there are two main types of forests: Productive Forests and a Protection Forests
In these forests the tree density is high and the forest canopy is closed. Such forests have great commercial value and they are mainly used for extraction of timber and other products.
These include amenity planting along roads, in parks and along railway lines. The protection forests have little commercial value because they do not supply valuable species of wood. Their main function is to protect the soil and prevent it from eroding or blowing away. They keep the environment pleasant by lowering the temperature and providing shade.
Forests are important in very different ways. From an ecological point of view, they help to maintain balance in the environment by checking pollution and protecting the soil from erosion by wind or water, particularly on sloping ground. By preventing soil erosion, the trees on the slopes of hills also regulate the supply of water to the reservoirs there by preventing floods. The composition of leaves helps in humus formation, which maintains the fertility of soil, which in turn shows fuel supply to millions of people.
`From commercial and industrial point of view, forests provide raw material to various industries e.g. timber, pharmaceutical and paper. They also have recreational value, promoting tourism and provide employment in the forest department. There are many employment opportunities that depend on the forest.
To sum up the importance of forests is:
The world has about 3870 million ha of forests, of which 95% are natural forests and 5% are forest plantation.
Source: FAO of the United Nations.
Europe (including the Russian federation) and South America have the largest percentage of the world's forests i.e. 27 and 23 percent respectively and Oceania has the least that is 5 percent.
Two third of the world's forest are located in only ten countries, the Russian federation, Brazil, Canada, United States of America, China, Australia, D.R. Congo, Indonesia, Angola and Peru.
The largest proportion of the world's forest is in the Tropical Zone i.e. 47%, followed by boreal i.e. 33%, temperate i.e. 11%, and Sub Tropical Zones which are 9%.
Tropical and Sub Tropical dry forests are concentrated in Africa containing 36% of the world forest. South America has 30% and Asia 21%.
The majority of tropical rain forests are located in South America that is 58% but a large portion that is 24% is also found in Africa, most of the rest are found in Asia.
Nearly all Temperate and Boreal forests are located in Europe and North and Central America.
Mountain forests are mainly in Europe that is 40% North and Central America that is 34%.
The area of plantations in many industrialized countries particularly in Europe is well defined than in developing countries. Many European countries make no distinction between planted and natural forests in their inventories.
According to Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) there are an estimated 187 million ha of plantation world wide, representing 5% of global forest area. Asia has by far the largest forest plantation estate of any region, accounting for 62% of the world's forest plantation. The ten countries with the largest reported areas of forest plantation together account for 80% of the Global forest condition area. About 60% of the forest plantations are located in only four countries, i.e. China, India, Russian Federation and the United States of America.
Source: FAO of the United Nations.
Source: FAO of the United Nations.
Source: FAO of the United Nations.
The difference is to be noted between the developed and developing countries i.e. the transfer of wealth and resources from the developing countries to the developed countries. The countries with the highest net loss of forest area
between 1990 and 2000 were Argentina, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mexico, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Those with the highest net gain were China, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and the United States.
Only four percent of the land area in Pakistan is covered with forests. In 1947 the position was even worse, with forest coverage at only 1.7 percent of the land area.
The factors, which determine the types of forests found in Pakistan, are:
The type and distribution of forests is closely linked to altitude. In areas above the snow line, there is hardly any vegetation. Alpine forests grow just below the snow line. From 1000 to 4000 meters, coniferous forests are found. Below 1000 meters, only irrigated plantations have good species of wood.
Source: Environment of Pakistan By Huma Naz Sethi.
Source: Environment of Pakistan By Huma Naz Sethi.
It is defined as the removal of the forests and its replacement by another land use class e.g. shifting or permanent agriculture, mining or water impoundments, or the long term canopy cover to less then 10% .In some cases deforestation may contribute to such severe land degradation, for e.g. in ecologically marginal areas, such as arid or mountain zones, and in the wet tropics, that little use can be subsequently made of the land without very costly rehabilitation.
To determine whether the removal of trees from an area constitutes deforestation, it is necessary to take into account the likely development of the area. Land continues to be classified as forest if reforestation is to occur in the near future or if already underway, even if the ten percent canopy cover threshold has not yet been reached. If, on the other hand, a sufficient density of trees is not likely to be established in the near future, or if land is converted into another land use, the area will be considered to be deforested.
Causes / Reasons of Deforestation
The legal categories of forests are based on the ownership and rights etc-in the NWFP province are explained below:
In Summary the forest resource extends over 1.684 million hectares, which forms about 17% of the total surface of the Province. The forest cover in the NWFP is considerably higher then the national average of about 5%.
Source: Forest Department Govt. of NWFP.
According to an estimate about 0.750 million hectares of natural forests are fit for timber production, of which only 0.260 million hectares are fit for commercial harvesting with a potential of 0.500 million cubic meters as an annual harvest.
As compared to the above production, the total market demand of timber for the country is estimated around 2.3 million cubic meters. These figures suggest that the rest of our natural timber demand is met from northern Areas, Azad Kashmir and other provinces, agricultural fields and imports.
There are basically two types of harvesting systems being run in the N.W.F.P since 1900.
Under the departmental harvesting system, the forest department directly engages the labour crews of work contractors. The timber so obtained is taken out and sold through sealed tenders or open auctions.
In case of state forests the total sale value is credited to the government. However, in case of other forests the sale proceeds are apportioned between the government and owners at the rate of 80:20 or 60:40 as the case may be.
It was introduced in 1907; under this system the standing trees were sold through sealed tenders to the registered forest contractor. The amount of sale proceeds was recovered from the contractors in installments as the lease progressed. Although the system was working quite satisfactorily, but with the changes in the political scenario of the country, the forest contractors acquired more powers by becoming political elites and government ministers. Thus the application of the forest rules became difficult for the officials of the department and the forest contractors stepped up their assault on the forest, and consequently the contractor system was abolished in 1974.
An alternative model in the shape of Forest Development Corporation was created and formally launched in 1976. Its basic objectives were:
Other than this, two more societies were launched to look after the owners of the forests, which were:
All the harvesting systems of forests have their merits and demerits. The controlling agency by virtue of its basic mandate is obliged to minimize the negative impacts of demerits on forests. Forest department is the custodian of the forest resource in the province. By and large it failed in doing its primary duty of forest management, which resulted in decline of the profession and degradation of the forest resource.
The primary forests in the northern areas and the NWFP have many important uses and are a source of livelihood for communities. In addition many ecological and environmental benefits and imperatives are associated with them. Survey shows a rapid decline in both coverage and the quality of forest standards. Such deforestation has led to a spate of on site and downstream ravages such as biodiversity loss, erosion, flooding and dam sedimentation.
The root cause of deforestation and degradation lies in forest management practices, which hence focused more on economic than on environmental utility. Such practices also deny community subsistence needs. Colonial government originally weakened community rights to the use of forest resources. Community management traditions already fragile have eroded with some opportunities for employment and out-migration. Also, demographic and development pressures have forced communities out of their ancestral lands into marginal areas, where competition for resources is severe, resulting in further violations of indigenous property rights.
The management system has been able to cope with these changes. The conflicting interests of commercial loggers, private developers, government and military agencies, hunters and impoverished committees have placed it under relentless strain. The forest department tends to choose the path of least resistance, coming down with a heavy hand on the disempowered committees and colluding for personal gain and profit with vested interest. Officials have become increasingly vulnerable to outside economic inducements as opportunities for financial and professional betterment become hostage to fiscal insolvency. The situation contains the seeds of conflict, with committees forced to act as predators, rather than as guardians of commons.
While there is little doubt that under the presently hostile management and tenure regimes, communities are showing a propensity to raid forest resources, their activities pale in comparison with the activities of the so called 'Timber-Mafia': Commercial loggers willing to undertake illegal logging driven by rising timber prices. The timber trade also demonstrates a distinct anti-community bias while communities are entitled to a substantial share of revenues (royalty) from logging in Guzara forests, active collusion between the mafia and the forest depts. Results in appropriation of the bulk of these royalties, which has given rise to conflict situation in the remote Northern areas, and parts of NWFP.
Those involved in the timber business have acquired leading roles in forest institutions and are deeply entrenched in the states administration machinery. These individuals, who are traditional tribal leaders and notables have been able both to manipulate legislation to serve their interests and to block changes in the law that would make forest management non participating and sustainable.
During the late 70s and early 80s such individuals used large transfers of state development funds to open up forest areas exploitation. Road and electrification programs facilitated commercial cutting while re-enforcing the political and social control of tribal leaders over indigenous population. There, the collusion of forest officials, large forestland owners, and contraction allowed timber extraction to proceed with little significant regulations.
The Chitral District in NWFP is an example of such activity and its effects. The falling and smuggling of timber has been a constant source of irritation for the Kalash ethnic minority who reside there. Yet efforts to stop these practices have often been weak and unorganized and have at times prompted retaliation from timber interests. In one case a Kalash leader survived an attempted murder, while his brother was killed after filing a court case about timber.
Meanwhile, over harvesting of timber by colluding special interests continues in the Kalash valley, causing migrations of villagers from High Mountain pasture to valleys and of young people to cities in search of work. The district of Malakand and Hazara have experienced similar problems.
In 1992 landslides, accelerated soil erosion, and large quantities of felled, unclaimed timber moving down the river Kunhar, Siran, Daur in Hazara resulted in widespread destruction of lives and infrastructure. According to a report released by the Sungi Development Foundation the filled timber:
"Destroyed approximately 30 to 35 water wells in the banks of the Kunhar River in the Kaghan valley, demolished bridges used as links between remote villages and commercial centers, and wiped out precious agriculture land."
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has promised damage mitigation exercises to rectify violation of environment laws by a 'farm to market' road project cutting through the forests in Pakistan's north Western Hazara Division.
ADB Resident Representative, Hasan Masood said compliance with environmental laws was still an evolving process but there would be complete observance of environmental laws in future.
Following complaints, Tahir Qadri, senior environment specialist with ADB visited seven of the roads and found ' over whelming evidence' that they were constructed in complete violation of the banks guidelines as well as the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA).
He told IPS after the tour that he had found that all concerned government officials and contractors were ignorant of ADBs guidelines or even the country's own laws.
Said a senior official of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) that is charged with implementing the PEPA, " If the Pakistani agencies have violated the act then ADB also cannot absolve itself of similar responsibility".
The official said that ADB would appear to have collaborated with Pakistani officials in the violating well-defined laws.
"Why have ADB officials failed to put environment safe guards in the terms of reference of consultants and agreement made with the Pakistani agencies?" he demanded to know.
To defend the ADB is to take the plea that it (the bank) has a very limited resident mission in Pakistan and cannot investigate all projects. In the present case the violence is severe considering that Pakistan is suffering from acute forest scarcity with forest covering less then five percent of the total land area.
The forest or woodland area per person is among the worlds lowest at a thirtieth of a hectare and most forests too slow growing to meet the heavy demand.
With the population growing at three percent per year and industrial growth at six percent there is a tremendous demand for construction wood, fuel wood and water from forested areas.
According to the National Conservation Strategy drafted in 1992, some thing like nine thousand hectare are deforested, 0.2% of annual decline in forest cover.
In such a context the 'farm to market' project for which ADB contributed 178 million dollars would have actually accelerated the rate of deforestation.
A 376 km stretch of road passes right through the North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P) with nearly half of it cutting through district featuring steep hills supporting natural Pine forest, which now face the threat of erosion.
"In many places debris have been dumped down hill without any regard to the existence of vegetation forest or the steepness of the slopes," Qadri said.
According to Qadri the cuts made along the hillsides to create roads have rendered the areas landslide prone with serious danger to cause ways, culverts and human life.
Qadri's tour covered Thandian -Pattan Khud Road in Abbottabad district, Balakot Hangrai, Chanesar Mera Karori, Kathahl and Karak Jaila Roads in Mansehra District, Kanjoo Baghdari Road in Swat District and the Sunderwal Shahi Road in Dir District.
After the October 1992 landslides in the area, when entire villages in the region were washed away, the government blamed deforestation and even imposed a ban on logging, although there has been no move towards enforcement.
A number of people die in the landslides and floods, many of them while attempting to save the precious timber, which was swiftly carried away by the floodwaters. There was a need for a domestic geologist or soil conservation expert to carry out an assessment of potential and actual negative impacts before and after the road construction.
According to project manager Momen Ali Shah, no assessment was carried out before the start of the project due to paucity of funds.
Shah, an official in the Federal Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development did not explain how that could be a valid excuse for violating environmental laws.
"But neither the stiff laws nor the angers of affected local people deterred project managers- or are they likely to so in the future."
Dr. Shahid Zia, Executive Director, Sungi Development Foundation presented peoples perceptions of forest and inability of the colonial laws, based heavily on income generation to arrest deforestation. He asserted that the rich and not the poor are responsible for the cutting and selling of trees. However the failure of the government to curb woodcutting by providing other alternatives has heavily affected the poor people. The current forest management approaches do not consider social and economic dimensions as they are heavily tilted in favour of income generation.
He explained that there is a nexus between integrated family health and forest system in NWFP. Studies carried out suggest that a single illness in the household would push the entire family into the poverty trap, compelling people to resort to deforestation as a source of livelihood. He stated that the policies designed in isolation without the active involvement of communities to develop the mountain areas would not yield the desired results, and referred to studies, which show that communities get 30-60% of their uncultivated food from forests.
Mr. Junaid Shah, Tehsil Nazim Balakot NWFP. He being a forest owner presented first hand information about deforestation based on the experiences of a forest owner. According to him poverty is the biggest cause. More than 80% of the population of his area is living below the poverty line. Lack of education and limited means of transport and communication has further aggravated the situation. In such a socio-economic environment, it is difficult for the people to appreciate the significance of forests. Secondly a huge population living in the area, resort to trees for use of wood as the only fuel source available to them. Thirdly commercial exploitation and harvesting of forests by the contractors with the full patronage of the concerned officials of the forest department is not only exploiting small forest owners with the weak financial positions but also causing deforestation no massive scale.
Fourthly, cattle grazing have increased with the increase in population, fifth forest fire burns down large trees and lack of enforcement of laws enables the culprits to escape without any positive action. Last but not the least, the menace of smuggling is increasing rapidly. The timber mafia is using all possible means to smuggle wood for short-lined gains. Unfortunately, the department has failed to rectify the situation. He appreciated the efforts of the organizers to involve the owners, which were hither to be excluded, from the mainstream debate.
Raja Attaullah Khan of Dir Kohistan Project Islamabad said that the rate of deforestation in Pakistan is alarming (1.5% i.e. 38,000 hectares per annum). The underlying factors responsible for this is the felling of trees for financial considerations by individuals, community, state or timber mafia, change in land use. He also mentioned the management problems like uncontrolled forest fires, failure to reforest/regenerate cut over area, and lack of necessary funds for carrying out regeneration activities. Cutting of trees causes changes in microclimate and adaptive conditions. He asked all the stakeholders not to use forests as a source of earning revenue and suggested that the felling programme should form an important part of any forest-working plan. Sustainable management of forests requires that people should be considered as major stakeholders and that if a certain forest cannot be regenerated it should not be felled at all.
It is also highlighted that the need to integrate gender considerations into forestry projects and forest related activities as women's tasks, which includes collection of wood for energy purposes, fodder and grasses for livestock, plantation on farms, seed collection, nursery establishment and collection and processing of forests products.
He presented a brief overview of the joint Forest Management, which was introduced in the province after the devastating floods of 1992. The rational behind it was to enable the government to look deep into the causes of deforestation associated with lack of community participation. He put emphasis on involving communities, in the management of forests. The communities he said are not intruders, as some officials of forest department believe, but the protectors of the forests, and lamented that the communities are not properly represented in the joint forest management communities.
Mr. Mohd Khan, Ex. Chief Conservator of forests, Government of Punjab, expressed that the causes of deforestation in Pakistan are mounting population pressure resulting in unsustainable removals, dependence of 90% of rural and 65% urban households on fuel woods are primary source of energy, theft and corruption, suspension of forest management in natural forest, unscientific grazing beyond carrying capacity, lack of adequate and sustained financial inputs, lack of socio-political commitment, floods, fires and storms, lack of sustainable development of fragile ecosystems, land use change of forests and wilderness area i.e. development pressures and management imperatives in the country.
Pakistan being a forest deficient country, also confronts problems like arid climate, heavy dependence on irrigation water. The socio-economic scenario with rural poverty, tremendous population and developmental pressure, lack of alternative source of energy in place of fuel wood and livestock dependence on forest (40%) has increased deforestation.
The environmental protection agency (EPA) prepared a fresh profile of NWFP to compile data about the resources of the province.
The provincial government has sanctioned Rs. 13 million for the two-year project.
Sources said EPA would compile primary and secondary data about urban, semi urban, rural and mountainous areas. This would assist policy makers, public and private sectors to understand magnitude of environmental issues posing a threat to the ecosystem and bio diversity.
In 1993 IUCN compiled environmental profile about the province and adjacent FATA but EPA said that the previous profile was not comprehensive and accurate because it is restricted to selected areas.
Previous profile covered population influx of Afghan Refugees based management, noise pollution, health, education, culture and heritage. The influx of Afghan refugees further burdened the natural resources.
Environmentalist believes that improvement was seen to some extent in many sectors.
Dr. Mohd. Shafiq Chairman of Environmental Sciences Department of the University of Peshawar said that certain indicators were showing improvement in some sectors.
He said that reaction of population growth had been registered, massive deforestation had been curtailed and people were becoming aware of environmental issues.
He said that repatriation of Afghan Refugees was a positive indicator.
Source: Office of the District Forest Officer Abbottabad.
The above chart shows the role of judiciary and forest department.
Cost on (a) should not exceed the limits fixed by the forest department/administrative department/executive committee and if they do the board directors of FDC should discuss this issue for FDC.
NWFP has been the best forest resource in the country and provides a lot of timber to other provinces too. On the other hand, the high mountains in which the major part of the resource is situated are catchments of the rivers Tarbela and Mangla Dams. Similarly local communities depend on the resource for their timber and fuel wood needs, fodder for cattle, and a general source of livelihood. The importance of the resource for the wild life habitat, environmental conservation, and bio diversity cannot be over stated. On these accounts sustainable management of the forest resource in the province is extremely important and at the same time highly complicated.
Forest making claims traditionally have been implemented for timber harvesting and not for trees regeneration. This resulted in a continuous degradation. Similarly increasing population kept on mounting its pressure on forests, clearing slopes for cultivation and grazing.
As such to save the forests a new initiative has to be taken which will comprise of infact depend on the true application of the basic elements like participation, integration, transparency, accountability, self financing, community participation and regeneration. If these initiatives are not taken then, I'm afraid we'll soon get from bad to worse.
The Writer is an officer of the Police service of Pakistan and a participant of the 75th Advanced Course held here in 2003.