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Emporium Current Essays


Forestry in the present age is no longer a discipline devoted to the growing and
harvesting of trees. Under the changing socioeconomic pattern forests are now furnishing
new products and services for more diverse use than is commonly realised. As a resource,
forests supply wood and fodder, provide natural environment for wildlife and are a source
of recreation. Forests also play an important role in soil conservation, prevent erosion and
floods, and provide grazing fields for the livestock of villagers living in the periphery of

There are two types of forests in Pakistan: production forests and protection forests. A
production freest is one which is managed or will be when forest management plans are
prepared, where timber is extracted, where tree density is high, and in most cases the
forest canopy :$ closed. The protection forest has no commercial value. The trees that are
grown are not to supply wood. Their main function is to protect the soil, to keep it from
eroding or blowing away. It also includes amenity plantings along roads or railway lines.

But of the total forest resource in Pakistan only 27.6 per cent is economically utilised
while the balance (72.4 per cent) is under protective cover.

Forest cover:

The total area under forest cover is stands at 4.58 million hectare which represents about
5.2 per cent of the total geographical area of the country.

Pakistan did not inherit a very rich forest resource. However under government planting
of trees in watershed areas, irrigated plantation and riverine forests were taken up.
Extension and social forestry programmes have been started on a large scale and forest
area has now grown from 1.4 minion hectare at the time of independence to 4.58 million
hectare at present. This, however, compares quite unfavourably with other countries of
the region, i.e., 464

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Malaysia 64.5 per cent, Sri Lanka 42.4 per cent, India 23.7 per cent, China 17.7 percent,
Bangladesh 15.3 per cent, etc.

There are two major reasons for this resources inadequacy:

* More than 70 per cent of the area of Pakistan is arid and semi-arid. In this large tract
not only is vegetation sparse but the land once cleared does not positively respond to
afforestation/reforestation efforts due to deterioration of site condition.
* Incessant cutting of trees in almost all parts of the country over the last couple of

Importance vfforests:

The forestry sector makes a very significant contribution to the economic and social
sectors. It has pronounced backward and forward linkages with other sectors of the
economy. Accordingly any change in this sector brings about wide multiplier effects
which penetrate every sector of the economy.

Forests are important for ecological as well as social security. They are vital for keeping
the environment in equilibrium by increasing the capacity of land to hold and conserve,
water, prevent erosion of soils, desertification, waterlogging, salinity and in controlling
pollution by supplying clean air. ;

Forests provide social security in terms of ensuring food to millions of people by

regulating the supply of water to reservoirs and canals systems, preventing a decline in
soil fertility and ensuring the productivity of land. They provide raw material for a large
number of wood based industries and local use which in turn generates income and
employment to a large number of people. The tree resource on farm lands and forests
provide for 50 per cent of the domestic energy needs.

Types of forests:

The distribution of forests in Pakistan is governed by climatic and edaphic factors, amply
reflected in the diversity of available forest types. While large areas are under natural
coniferous and bro..d leafed forests, some of the forests are entirely man made. Starting
from the alpine scrub in the northern Himalayas, there are a variety of forest types which
end up with mangrove forests in the Indus Delta swamp along the Arabian Sea.

Deforestation by vegetation type:


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The coniferous forests of Pakistan located in the remote areas of the north are an
important source of commercial timber. The potential for tree growth is good an the
available species are valuable resources. However, pressure from- people and animals is a
serious threat to the sustainabiiity of these forests.

Animals discrimiaately graze on ydu&g trees and people overuse them. The entire
regenerative capacities of the forests decrease and industrial felling becomes a threat due
to over harvesting.
Technical limitations are also a cause for serious concern. Trees are cut by hand aces or
saws and rolled down hillsides, wasting much wood and causing environmental damage.

Long rotation periods result in over mature trees being commercially less valuable. They
also reduce the light available to young trees.


They occur in almost all provinces and are & source of timber, fire wood and fodder for
local communities. They include dry sub-tropical broad leafed and tropical thorny
species. Scrub forests cover an area of 1.7 million hectare i.c,, 37.56 per cent of the total
forest area in Pakistan. The management objective is to protect watersheds and supply
fuel wood. Scrub forests are growing in adverse conditions and many never be able to
produced and may never be able to produce large Volumes of wood per unit area. (3j

Currently 120,000 hectare of man-made plantation* in the Punjab and Sindfa provide a
significant supply of industrial wood. These ancient, economically important plantations
are now under threat Irrigated forests depend upon artificial sustenance from irrigation
canals. This irrigation water has to be allocated both to agricultural land and plantations.
As agriculture dominates water allocations, the water made available to these plantations
has reached critically low levels.

The problem is exacerbated by increasing situation in the irrigation canals which leads to
a rise in the ground level of plantations. The entire system of plantation and canals is
poorly maintained due to non-availability of local labour. Harvesting of trees for
sericulture of mulberry trees also leaves them in poor conditions, resulting in low
productivity. It this trend continues agricultural land will soon replace plantations. 466

Emporium Current Essays

Riverine forests

Riverine forests are dependent upon the natural flooding or the Indus Basis and are
dominated by Acacia plants of Sindh and the Punjab. They are crucially important to the
furniture and firewood industries, to meet the fuel wood and charcoal needs of rural and
orbaa areas for mining timber used by the coal industry,

The rapid deterioration of these forests is a result of construction of upstream dams which
reduce the amount, extent and frequency of flooding.

It is estimated that recently only SQ per cent of the gross area of these forests ia Sindb
was inundated with water causing
40,000 hectare of original forests to be completely denuded of vegetation.
With additional dams planned only 20 per cent of the original forest will get enough
water for sustenance.

At a national level, almost 50 per cent of original riverine forests have degenerated
beyond economic viability. Encroachments and illegal cuttings further worsen this

Farm forestry

These forests are cultivated on privately owned farm land and supply 70-80 per cent of
Pakistan's fuel wood and SO per cent of its timber requirements.

The present fuel wood demand is expected to double by the year 2080 reaching a total of
302. million cubic metres and alternative energy imports such as fuel and kerosene will
be decreasing wila time.

Under such demand patterns farm forests are under continuing pressure to increase
production. Farm forestry will gain importance witli time. Despite the provision of free
seedlings replanting has not taken place at the rate required for sustainable yields.
Campaigns lack forest extension and adequate promotional activity.

Mangrove forests

Coastal communities use these forests for firewood, timber fodder and fishing related
products. Camels and livestock also feed on leaves of mangrove trees.

These forests fall into the "protected forest" category which give local people unlimited
rights of use. Indiscriminate cutting of

Emporium Current Essays


trees has resulted in a rapidly deteriorating and disappearing ecosystem. With the
construction of dams and barrages the flow of fresh water into the coastal region has
decreased by 90 per cent and without the diluting effect, sea water has raised the salinity
of mangrove waters. With the result that only one out of 8 mangrove tree species tolerant
to water salinity dominates. The dumping of agricultural, industrial and domestic wastes
into creeks has also added to the degeneration of mangrove forests.

Causes of deforestation


Large forest tracts are cleared of tree growth #,to grow agricultural crops. In Pakistan
after the construction of dams and barrages millions of hectares of land were cleared of
vegetation for agriculture.


With agriculture expanding to feed one of the world's fastest growing populations the
water budget for irrigated plantations has been erratic and insufficient for normal tree


To meet the demands of a developing country new townships are being planned. In this
process large forested areas will have to be cleared. The construction of roads and
markets have also resulted in industries.


Major wood for industries in Pakistan include sports goods, chipboard, hardboard,
veneer, plywood and safety matches. Wood is also required for building truck and bus
bodies, boats, railways, coaches etc. To survive, these industries requires a sustained
supply of wood from local forests as weH as imported raw material. Meagre forest
resources cannot meet this demand and unless afforestation and accelerated planting is
undertaken forest resources are threatened. Wood based enterprises.

Village carpenters required wood for different wood products and implements. There are
about 45,000 carpentry units handled by 100,000 village carpenters for using 250,000
cubic metres of wood which is not accounted for in wood requirements.


Nearly 50 per cent of heating and cooking requirements are met by 20.88 cubic metres of
fuel wood consumed every year. In fact468

Emporium Current Essays




76 per cent of the rural population depends on wood for heating and cooking. As a result,
tree are heavy encroachments on the state forests and on tree growth on marginal lands.

Over 80 million assorted livestock and unaccounted for wildlife are dependent on 62
million hectare of degraded rangelands and forest area, making it the biggest land use.

The freely roaming livestock pose the greatest threat to afforest ition/regeneration
programmes in all ecological zones. The slow regenerating Juniper forests have no young
crop to take their place. The north presents a similar picture. In the case of irrigated
plantations and riverine forests saplings are grazed, and if not saved at an early stage do
not achieve maturity.


When grass is scarce, millions of hungry cattle, sheep, goats and camels fall back upon
fodder trees. The trees are looped right to the main stem leaving behind only branch stubs
which re-sprout with depleted fibour the following year.


Forests in the Himalayas lure thousands of tourists. These visitors disfigure the natural
ecology of these areas by disturbing the wildlife, starting forest fires and destroying
young wildlife.


Forest resources throughout Pakistan are intricately tied to several other activities. One of
the closet links to forestry is the wildlife sector which depends upon forest of all types.

The forests provide some of the most valuable habitats for diminishing wildlife
populations. Deforestation has had a serious impact on the wildlife sector. This is a major
concern because Pakistan will not only face an economic .crisis due to wildlife extinction
but also suffer a biodiversity loss in its varied flora and fauna. :