Review of National Forest Policies - Pakistan

1. Introduction

Land and water are the nature's prime resources that bring sustenance to many life forms and ecosystems on planet earth, but they are neither renewable nor infinite. Over the years unsustainable land management practices have promoted large scale degradation of these elementary resources and jeopardized normal function of many biological systems associated with them. Forests and trees which derive their nutrients from soil, use water and solar energy to transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into biomass and many products, are a renewable resource. As a renewable resource, the importance of forests can not be exaggerated. About 1.6 billion people rely heavily on forests for their livelihoods. Over 2 billion people, a third of the world's population, use biomass fuels, mainly firewood, to cook and heat their homes. As many as 350 million people who live in, or next to, forests rely on them for subsistence. In 2003, the international trade in sawn wood, paper and pulp amounted to US$ 150 billion. The value of the non-wood forest products (NWFP,s) has been estimated at US$ 11 billion. Although Pakistan has a very small forest estate of 4.4 million ha (5.01% of total land area), nevertheless, geographic and climatic variation within the country's small landscape has endowed it with a multitude of forest ecosystems ranging from coastal mangroves to biodiversity rich mountain forests.

The sustainable management of land and water related resources like agriculture, forestry, fisheries, wildlife and wetlands depend upon a multitude of factors that have to be integrated in a holistic way to perform four inter-dependent functions: production, protection, regulation and provisioning. National sectoral policies provide short and long-term guidelines towards sustainable management of these resources. Historically, forest policies in Pakistan have not emerged as a result of any concern, new vision, research or monitoring based feed-back from previous policies but mostly due to change in the political governments. Moreover, these policies with the exception of 1991 did not follow any consultative process. While focus of most forest policies during twentieth century remained on commercial harvesting to generate revenue, apathy to maintain vigor, ecosystem services and functions of the natural forests prevailed during all these years leading to threshold levels of forest degradation. As such forest policies announced by the Federal Government could not transform principles of SFM on ground and yielded no significant change in extending forest resource base.

A recent assessment of forests and rangelands conducted by PFI, Peshawar (PFI Forest and Rangeland Survey, 2004) has revealed that dry temperate conifer forests in Northern Areas, mangrove and riverain forests in Sindh have registered a sharp decline in area. Furthermore, large scale encroachments and allocation of forest lands to non-forestry uses has continued due to lack of political will, ineffective implementation of forest policies and legislation. Prescriptions of the management plans were not strictly followed and forest departments' functioning under weak political governments could not achieve any success in adopting principles of sustainable forest management. Consequently forest resource degradation manifested in different forms and intensity throughout Pakistan's landscape has continued to-date, and every year 39,000 ha are lost due to deforestation.

Degradation of coastal mangroves, dry lands and other forest types have reached at a level that some of the indigenous tree species associated with these ecosystems are becoming rare. Dense and contiguous forest landscapes in the mountainous areas have become fragmented making it difficult to restore ecological integrity of these systems. As a consequence, forest degradation has adversely affected the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. Forest policies during the 21st century have to be tailored in a way that while the primary focus is on maintaining ecosystem integrity, the benefits and services derived from the forests have to be linked with the livelihoods of all the stakeholders especially the defacto users living in the vicinity of forests.

Forests provide diverse services and will continue to remain an integral part of rural livelihoods in Pakistan. As per customary practices poor communities living in the vicinity of forests derive their livelihoods from forests. The legal basis of classifying forests in terms of their use and ownership have lost their significance as poor rural people are the de-facto users of the forests. In the absence of alternative livelihood opportunities, and in their quest to survive under extreme hostile conditions, poor people consider it their right to adopt practices that may degrade the forest resource. This degradation of the natural resource in turn affects the rural livelihoods and people become poorer. Any future strategy that outweighs conservation over human dimension and poverty alleviation is not going to succeed in protecting the resource.

In the context of Pakistan, the drivers of forest-based livelihoods are in part the needs and priorities of the poor people besides formal policies, institutions and processes that impinge on people's everyday life (Baumann and Sinha 2001). The socio-economic and human face has emerged as a dominant theme during national and international discourse on sustainable forest management as against pure technical considerations during the last century. Unless forest degradation, sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation issues are not mainstreamed in sectoral policies related to agriculture, forests and rural development, the realization of SFM will remain a myth during 21st century.

At the global level, 13 million ha forest land is being deforested annually and Pakistan is no exception to this where annual deforestation is estimated at 39,000 ha. Deforestation and land degradation leads to 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions and is one of the major contributors to green house gases after the energy sector. The environment and carbon sequestration aspect of forests is becoming a major subject of international debate and the concept of Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Forest land Degradation (REDD) is emerging as an innovative financing mechanism under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) supporting efforts of developing countries to reduce green house gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Other important factors that are shaping new forest policy shifts in terms of forest management are fast emerging trends in globalization, decentralization, devolution of responsibilities to local level and adoptin g of participatory processes within the countries (Babar, Tanvir & Suleri, 2004).

In developing countries including Pakistan, since people's livelihoods are dependent on land and forest resources, proper governance and management of these resources are recognized as essential components of Poverty Reduction Strategies. PPRP-II which is in the formulation stage links the potential of forests with poverty alleviation and strongly advocates mainstreaming of sectoral policies to address the problems of forest and land degradation through sustainable land management practices. Thus future policies of natural resources development and diversification of resources at local level should become an instrument towards poverty alleviation in rural areas where majority of the population are dependent on forests.

Forestry is a provincial subject with planning, execution and implementation of forest, watershed and range improvement programs vested in provincial forest departments. However, policy formulation is the responsibility of the Federal Government. Currently, forestry sector is confronted with many challenges: massive degradation of watersheds, deforestation, encroachments, conversion of forests to non-forestry uses, overuse of rangelands, habitat and biodiversity loss, desertification, climate change, prolonged droughts, environmental pollution, heavy dependence of rural population on biomass energy, complex land tenure, weak forestry institutions, ineffective enforcement of law and lack of inter-sectoral coordination. This paper makes an attempt to analyze existing forest policies and identify gaps with a view to provide guidelines for future policies and legislation to meet the new challenges. At the global level, during the past two decades there has been great realizati on and shift in forest management from mere production to environmental management.

2. Forest policies: An Overview

A review of the forest policies (1955; 1962; 1975; 1980, 1991 and 2005 issued since 1947 is as under:

2.1 Forest Policy, 1894

At the time of independence in 1947, Pakistan inherited the forest policy 1894 made by the colonial British Government in India when forests in the subcontinent occupied more than 25 % of the total land area and human and livestock populations were low. Since urbanization and wood consumption was also low, this policy resulted in a well preserved forest estate through effective governance and management. However, the policy did not result in any improvement and extension of the forest resource base and community participation remained negligible under the autocratic colonial rule.

2.2. Forest Policy, 1955

After independence, the first forest policy of Pakistan was issued in 1955 by Central Board of Forestry. This policy defined the objectives of forest management based on the concepts of sustained yield; it also contained provisions for the preparation of management plans; fencing of forests; the establishment of wood-based industries; creating employment opportunities; the setting aside of 10 percent of the area for irrigated plantations; establishing linear plantations and a trained forest service; powers to control land use for soil conservation; the protection of mountain habitats for wildlife; and the management of private forests through legislation. Although this policy took notice of the illegal cutting of forests by contractors, however, this policy failed to play an effective role in monitoring the policy process and implementation.

2.3 Forest Policy, 1962

The merger of provinces into West Pakistan and other influences led to the Forest Policy statement of 1962. Major policy thrusts included: commercial forest management; the transfer of state lands to the forest departments; acquiring the rights of local people; the appointment of forest magistrates; entrusting timber harvesting to forest departments or autonomous bodies; growing of industrial wood; supplying saplings to the public at nominal rates; plans for coastal areas; planting of floodplains; transferring land strips along railways, highways and canals to the forest departments; research on afforestation in arid zones; selection of fast-growing species for saline and waterlogged areas; legislation for the minimum number of trees on farmlands; and the promotion of farm forestry through extension services. The 1962 Forest Policy also recommended that state grass and pastures lands (Rukhs), canal side land be transferred to Forest Departments for management through worki ng plans. This policy also provided the development of forest resources hand in hand with the agriculture. While some policy guidelines were implemented, others like shifting of populations from mountainous areas were found to be impractical. This policy did not result in any substantial increase in forest area and forests continued to deteriorate due to growing demands for forest products. Moreover, major thrust of the policy was expansion in area and maximization of production to increase revenue. Like 1955 policy this policy also recommended to stop extraction of forests through contractors to minimize logging damages and timber pilferages.

2.4 Forest Policy, 1975

With the separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1971, a new policy was formulated by the Government in 1975 involving Government and non-government institutions. The policy focused on eliminating rights of local people to forests; artificial regeneration using high quality growing stock; establishing forest industries near forests; using fast-growing species; providing adequate irrigation water; transferring linear plantations to forest departments; promoting farm forestry; and entrusting the management of private guzara forests to forest owners' cooperatives. While this policy emphasized awareness raising it also recommended that forest harvesting should be entrusted to public forest corporations instead of contractors. While this policy was considered people friendly, it did not yield any significant improvement in the protection and enhancement of forests in the country.

2.5 Forest Policy, 1980

The Forest Policy guidelines were part of the 1980 National Agriculture Policy. They included a greater thrust on planting fast-growing tree species outside public forests, departmental harvesting on scientific lines, creation of national parks and wilderness areas, production of medicinal herbs etc. The approaches to implement the policy and instruments to achieve the objectives as set in this policy were obscure and as such the forest resources continued to deteriorate under growing population pressure and ineffective governance and lack of public financial support for Reforestation efforts. In 1988, the new Government constituted a National Commission on Agriculture which also made very comprehensive recommendations on reformation of the forestry sector to meet the emerging challenges of resource degradation. These recommendations were later incorporated in the 1991 Forest Policy.

2.6 Forest Policy 1991

This policy emerged through a consultative workshop of various stakeholders and as a consequence of many donor driven participatory and social forestry projects including USAID assisted "Forestry Planning and Development Project" that supported massive farm forestry throughout the country. The policy contained guidelines on: integrated use of forest resources; long-term loans at concession rates and insurance for tree crops; leasing of selected public lands to interested groups; artificial regeneration; logging by the public sector; the establishment of extensive road networks to facilitate extraction, the mechanization of forest operations; the establishment of regional research institutions; encouraging private game reserves; collaborative wildlife management through the sharing of revenues from trophy hunting; the promotion of social forestry and afforestation on degraded and marginal lands; the involvement of NGOs and voluntary organizations; tree plantations to mitiga te pollution; legislation to protect wildlife habitats and wetlands; a GIS-based inventory and monitoring system; watershed planning and coordination as a federal function. This policy was also perceived as following a status-quo approach and did not yield any major breakthrough in reducing massive deforestation in the country.

2.7 Forest Policy, 2005

The formulation of a new forest policy was initiated in 2001 through a consultative process and the final draft submitted to Federal cabinet in 2005 is still awaiting its approval.The Policy provides broad guidelines to the Federal Government, Provincial Governments, Federally Administered Areas and Local Governments for ensuring the sustainable management of their forests and renewable natural resources. A consultative process was adopted for Policy formulation, involving all the provinces, major environmental NGOs, individual experts and relevant ministries of the Federal Government. The draft policy paper was widely distributed and the comments received were incorporated in the text. The draft policy document was presented in a National Workshop comprising of all the stakeholders. The policy document was revised by incorporating the findings of the National Workshop. Final draft was shared with all concerned NGOs, Provinces and the Federal Ministries. The Policy was als o placed on the Website of the Ministry of Environment soliciting public comments.

The National Forest Policy 2005 provides a framework and guidelines to the Federal Government, Provincial Governments, Federally Administered Territories and Local Governments for managing their renewable natural resources like Forests, Watersheds, Rangelands, Biodiversity and habitats. It aims to foster sustainable development of renewable natural resources of Pakistan for the maintenance and rehabilitation of its environment and enhancement of sustainable livelihoods of its rural masses. Objectives of the Policy include: (a) Establishment of a regular system of forest resources assessment and periodic monitoring (b) Preparation and implementation of forest and range management plans based on modern ecosystem approaches (c) Proper valuation of forests, ranges, watersheds and ecosystems (d) Launching national, provincial and local level campaigns of environmental awareness and education (e) Restoration of ecological balance with prime emphasis on indigenous forest species (f) Conservation, management and utilization of natural resources with the involvement of custodian communities and stakeholders (g) Improvement of socio-economic conditions of the communities by promoting cheaper and renewable biomass energy resources (h) Fostering public-private partnerships (i) Meeting national obligations under different international agreements such as CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC and UNFF (j) Promoting forestry research and education in collaboration with regional and international institutions.

The Policy proposes 11 measures for achieving the objectives viz; 1) Reducing the impact of socio-economic causes, 2) Ensuring transparency and governance in the Forestry and Wildlife Departments, 3) Renovating and invigorating the institutions of renewable natural resources, 4) Supporting Local Governments in the sustainable development of their renewable natural resources, 5) Policies for fragile ecosystems, 6) Preservation of relict and unique forests, 7) Wildlife, 8) Rangelands and desert ecosystems, 9) Planting of trees on farmlands, 10) Strengthening forestry research, education and extension 11) General section outlining the monitoring and evaluation system. The Action Plan defines the roles and responsibilities of Federal and Provincial Governments in implementing this policy.

3. Analysis of Forest Policies

3.1 First Policy Review (1992)

The first review of the policy statements of 1955, 1962 and 1980 was carried out by Mr. Abeedullah Jan, Inspector General of Forests, and published in the book Review and Analysis of Forest Policies of Pakistan 1992. The main problems regarding the implementation of various forest policies were attributed to a lack of funds to implement forestry programs, jurisdiction problems over privately owned forests, low priority of the forestry sector compared to agriculture, competition between agriculture and forestry for land and water, resistance from people to controlled grazing, priority for non-tree land use, lack of public cooperation and lack of funds and facilities for the forest department staff (see Annex 1). The publication also describes the Forest Policy of 1991.

3.1 Second Policy Review (1998)

The most recent review of forest policies in Pakistan was carried out by The World Conservation Union (IUCN)Pakistan and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan in 1998. This report "Changing perspectives on forest policy" was based on a consultative process involving a multi-disciplinary team of experts from local institutions. It provides insights into the impact of a rapidly increasing population on the country's ecosystems, climate change, desertification and biodiversity. The stTudy recognizes that forestry in Pakistan can no longer be considered in isolation from other sectors and has to be managed for a broad spectrum of goods and services. The study concludes that because of the multiplicity of interests and demands on national forests, policies cannot be formulated without considering the perspectives of all stakeholders. The report highlights the strengths and weaknesses of past policies, investigates the lessons learnt from different projects and programs and provides a good foundation for future policies to be built on.

The study identified the following constraints to improving forest policy in Pakistan:

Entrenched forest department attitudes, which use a "command-and-control" approach; the department is wary of the development-agent/monitoring role, which will be required in the future. This is an exacerbated bureaucratic system, with a lack of incentives and training in the new areas.

Fiscal deficits, putting a strain on departmental budgets.

Weak reconciliation of social and environmental goals with the current formal departmental goal of revenue maximization.

Lack of accountability.

Inadequate information on forests and on stakeholders' needs and capacities.

Lack of established fora for review and debate of policies and experimental initiatives.

Lack of local-level governmental institutions that could reconcile top-down policy initiatives and implement bottom-up participatory projects.

Weak relations between the state and civil society (NGOs, communities and their representatives.

Weak integration of farm forestry and import policies into forestry policies, and consequently a continuing and overriding pressure to use the small remaining natural forests for timber production

4. Gaps in Forest Policies

Although Federal Government is responsible for policy formulation, however, responsibility for implementation of forestry programs and management of forests in accordance with the policy guidelines rests with the provincial forest departments. Some gaps exist in transforming policy guidelines into field interventions due to institutional, financial constraints and provisions that come into conflict with provincial interests. Some of these gaps/conflicts in these policies are as under:

Since 1947 six forest policies were announced by the Federal Government following change in political governments. This does not mean that past governments have remained concerned about the forest resource. On the contrary, these policies lacked ownership and commitment with respect to their implementation in true letter and spirit.

In the past, forest policies and issues related to sustainable management of forests were rarely discussed in provincial and federal legislative bodies, and lacked overall support of appropriate legislation.

Forestry being a provincial subject, has always remained a low priority in terms of financial allocation. As such interventions required to transform federal policy guidelines into programs, projects and strategic action plans at the ground level did not get matching funds under provincial and federal PSDP. As such realization of policy objectives to improve and enhance forest resource base remained an unaccomplished task.

Forest policy review processes are neither institutionalized nor a government priority. Policy reviews are conducted in an ad-hoc fashion and not based on any research studies related to implementation and monitoring of previous policies. No guidelines exist on policy reviews and policies are influenced by the frequent changes in governments.

Federal policy guidelines come into conflict with provincial interests in terms of levying of taxes on inter-provincial movement of timber, upstreamdownstream compensation for watershed values, demand for cash compensation in lieu of a ban on timber harvesting in protected areas, mining and game hunting.

Inter-sectoral conflicts between the energy sector and biodiversity conservation ( e.g. support for the construction of dams for inexpensive electricity against opposition from environmentalists who want to conserve the mangrove ecosystem). Likewise, agriculture extension staff preventing farmers to plant trees on farmlands fearing less crop production.

The lack of capacity to incorporate the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UNCCD and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC) into forestry policy. Biodiversity conservation and the management of forests as carbon sinks are not fully reflected in past policies.

In the past forest policies were prepared in isolation from other sectors (e.g. agriculture, wildlife, fisheries, tourism, population planning, energy, water etc). This isolation and lack of coordination persists at policy formulation and implementation levels.

Past forest policies did not take notice of large scale conversion of forest lands into non-forestry uses and no legislation exists to control such transfers. Illegal forest encroachments have also progressed over the years and the existing legislation is deficient and ejectment process too lengthy to cope with the existing situation. National auditing of forests is required to be in place to safeguard against non-forestry uses and encroachments.

Forest products are now traded as a free list commodity at the international level with annual turnover of US $ 150 billion (2003). Although forest products export is very limited in Pakistan, still we lack capacity and understanding to include international trade in the forest policy.

Sustainable Forest Management concerns and principles are not adequately mainstreamed into sectoral policies, national economic development plans, livelihoods and poverty alleviation strategies.

There is no consensus on the definition of forests and SFM. Criteria and indicators for SFM need to be developed for different forest types and tested for their validity.

Pakistan being party to UNFF process has adopted Non-legally binding instruments on forests. Therefore, future policies need to be formulated not only to realize national objectives but global objectives including reversal of deforeatation.

The existing forest classification based on 1935 description and classification is too old to meet the new emerging challenges of resource degradation with more attention on ecosystem integrity. There is a need to undertake ecosystem-based classification according to the accepted international system. Biodiversity concerns also need to be incorporated in forest management plans.

All stakeholders such as local communities, landless people, tenants, other government departments, NGOs and biodiversity specialists are not involved in the preparation of management plans.

Forest policies need to focus on raising more indigenous forest tree species in nurseries some of which are become rare and difficult to regenerate under natural conditions. At present there is no policy and legislation on invasive, exotic and GMO's that have adverse impact on forest biodiversity.

There is a need for a balanced approach towards the centralized Forest Act (1927) and the most decentralized revised provincial acts.

Impact of extra-sectoral influences on forests are not considered in formal forest policies.

Forest service remained insensitive to emerging challenges like depleting physical condition of the forests, loss of biodiversity and impact of global climate changes on forests.

Natural forest degradation progressed with a pace that application of principles of sustainable forest management and eco-system approach has become a formidable task.

Past policies lacked vision and comprehension, provided a number of ambitious provisions that were beyond the capacities of the provincial governments to implement.

Past policies did not follow the full policy processes culminating in implementation, monitoring, evaluation and feedback into the policy loop.

No institutional mechanisms to oversee implementation and initiate legislation to enforce policy directives.

Many policy statements contained unrealistic provisions like increase of forest area by 10% in a country where 88 % of the area is arid and semi-arid receiving less than 10 inches annual rainfall.

The establishment of public sector corporations for scientific harvesting of natural forests and forestry cooperatives in NWFP were not properly planned and led to massive irregularities and excessive cutting of trees than working plan prescriptions.

None of the past forest policies identified unsustainable commercial timber harvesting and forest depletion through powerful "timber mafia'' patronized by the politicians and vested interests.

Past forest policies did not attempt to enlist the support of other sectors that promote depletion of natural resources.

The role of community participation towards sustainable forest management was not recognized in earlier policies.

Policies in the past did not address the fundamental causes of forest depletion that lies embedded in the struggle of the communities to earn their livelihood from resources subjected to decades of misuse.


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