A number of steps have been taken to direct Pakistan’s strategies, policies and legislation toward the conservation of forest Biodiversity.
The Forestry Master Plan was launched in 1992 for a period of 25 years. Its aim is to assist in sustainable forest development and management, supported by long-term goals and objectives for the forestry sector. This was the first document that had long-term vision, and set up long-term goals and objectives for the forestry sector. A number of important projects like the Asian Development Bank and the Dutch-funded Forestry Sector Project in NWFP, and the World Bank-funded Punjab Forestry Development Project are aiming at sustainable forest development through community participation.
Pakistan’s first National Environment Policy 2005 has been promulgated, wherein forests and forest ecosystems are treated as integral components of the green environment. The Policy provides guidelines and action plans for the conservation of forest biodiversity in all eco-zones of Pakistan. The draft National Forest Policy has also been prepared after a broad-based stakeholders’ consultation. The overriding principle of the Forest Policy is to conserve forest ecosystems and ensure sustainable use. The Forest Policy stresses implementation of forest management plans based on ecosystem approach, and protecting relict natural forests. It seeks that commercial forestry should be practiced to the maximum on private woodlands (agro-forestry) and natural forests be protected for environmental services and Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP). Commercial harvesting of forest has been banned in Pakistan since 1992 after the devastating floods.
Under the Millennium Development Goals, Pakistan intends to extend its forest cover from existing 4.8 percent to 6.0 percent by 2015 i.e. more than one million hectares of new land is to be brought under forest cover. This target will be achieved through provincial forestry programmes. Respective action plans, programmes and projects of the provinces are under development, which have a common goal of restoring, conserving and promoting forests.
Ministry of Environment is sponsoring mega-scale watershed management programmes with the objectives of conserving and building forest biodiversity of catchment areas of Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs. In addition, several projects are under implementation to promote irrigated forests of the Punjab and Sindh provinces. On farmlands, Government of Pakistan, as a matter of its policy, is promoting native tree species preferably in appropriate proportions to ensure maximum species diversity. Dry land and desert forest diversity is being treated as a crosscutting subject where objectives of CBD and UNCCD integrate. A nation-wide programme on combating desertification and sustainable land management has been approved by the Global Environment Facility GEF wherein conservation of dry land biodiversity is a major component. Federal government and provincial governments are vigorously implementing programmes to conserve forest biodiversity of protected areas including four national parks namely Hingol (Balochistan), Chitral Gol, Ayubia (NWFP), Machhiara (Kashmir), and four conservancies in NWFP and Northern Areas.
The National Forestry Program facility (NFP) has been initiated with the support of FAO, this is a three year program and includes a component of Forestry Vision 2020, this activity will include in depth analysis of the global processes including the program of work on forest biological diversity for implementation in Pakistan.
The Environmental Protection Ordinance (EPO) of 1983 was the first legislation framed to consider environmental concerns and issues as a whole. This act was followed by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) of 1997. The National Conservation Strategy (NCS) was the first comprehensive document that sought to plan development within an environment friendly framework, one that emphasised conservation and the efficient use of natural resources. The NCS focuses on sustainable development. In line with the NCS, the Sarhad Provincial Conservation Strategy (SPCS) has already been completed, while the preparation of conservation strategies for Balochistan and the Northern Areas are in progress.
The timber-harvesting ban imposed in 1992 in the NWFP province, was the first response of the government to large-scale deforestation, thereby providing an excellent opportunity for the rehabilitation of the forest. Since 1985, an executive order of the Chief Minister of Punjab has put an end to the cutting of trees in the high hills of Murree and Kahuta.
In NWFP, a number of policy initiatives are underway to achieve sustainable forest development through the involvement of all stakeholders in forest management, conservation of Biodiversity and environmental protection. The forest policy has been revised, while the NWFP Forest Act 2000 has also been promulgated. The NWFP has formally established a Forestry Commission, a Forest Roundtable and the Joint Forest Management Committees. All these fora aim towards broadening the future perspective of forest conservation and management.
The following are the recommendations listed during the process of the preparation of the National Reports:
There is need to develop a strategy aiming at sustainable forestry development by adopting holistic and integrated resource management principles through active community participation. This will require a change in the role of the managers, the active participation of communities and other stakeholders; capacity building; and the sharing of benefits on an equitable basis. Sustainable forest development also demands consistent policies and strategies for achieving both short and long-term goals, in addition to a clear-cut vision, and strong political will to realise the objectives of the policies in true spirit. Decentralisation and devolution also play a crucial role in sustainable forest management. In some provinces, the Forest Department has already started these processes, but donor assistance plays a major role in this process. It is not known that whether these changes will continue once donor support is discontinued.
Indicators are ways to measure or describe criteria and provide a common framework for describing, monitoring, and evaluating progress towards sustainable forest management. This concept is a relatively new initiative in sustainable forest management, and is considered a very useful tool for adjusting forest policy and adopting other measures to sustain forestry. Globally, more than 150 countries are currently participating in international processes aimed at the development and implementation of national level criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.
Promotion of Non-destructive Uses of Trees
Trees and forest ecosystems have many uses that are economically important, but do not involve cutting. Presently our management plans do not focus on promoting non-destructive uses as tools for conservation. Gums, wild fruits, ecotourism and honey are some uses that need to be focused on in the future plans of forest management. Moreover, the social and environmental services of the forest continue to grow. These include global climatic change, soil conservation, and conservation of biological diversity, employment generation and the provision of recreational opportunities.
There is also a need to record indicators for forest Biodiversity, with a baseline that establishes the condition of Biodiversity a century ago. Recording changes at both the ecosystem and the species levels also needs to be undertaken. As mentioned earlier, accounts of the natural environment, as it was a century ago are available in district gazetteers. There is a need to update the syllabus on forestry in colleges, so that developments in Biodiversity research are incorporated in forestry planning and policies. Greater training for foresters in management practices is required, as is dialogues on how to bring forest management in conformity with the CBD in Pakistan.
Chapter 5: Wildlife Biodiversity
Wildlife includes all vertebrates except fish, domesticated animals and human beings. Other broader definitions of wildlife include all plants and animals in wild ecosystems. Wildlife management is therefore concerned with the abundance and distribution of vertebrate species. Wildlife managers must also manage habitats, including vegetation and invertebrates which are food for, or causes of disease to wildlife.
Wildlife management is the science and art of changing the characteristics and the interaction of habitat, wild animal populations and man in order to achieve specific human goals by means of wildlife resources. Until recently, most wildlife management has focused on game animals. With the growing realisation that all wild vertebrates possess important values, the scope of wildlife management has been broadened to include predators, songbirds, furbearers and vertebrate pests.
A lot has been done for the conservation of wildlife since the creation of separate Wildlife Departments; Box 4 gives an account of the steps undertaken for conserving the brown bear species whose killing holds an economic incentive. Box 5 gives some detail on the crocodile, whose killing also holds an economic incentive.
Box 4: Protecting the Himalayan Brown Bear in Deosai Plains
Encircled by the Himalayan Mountains and in close proximity to the breathtaking Karakorum Range, the Deosai Plains are a fascinating exhibition of nature and unique wildlife with an average height of 13,000 feet. The Plains are home to the ibex, red fox, golden marmot, wolf, the Ladakh urial, the snow leopard, the Himalayan brown bear, and a number of resident and migratory birds. They make up one of the last frontiers of natural habitat for the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos). Having long been a prize kill for poachers and hunters, the brown bear, Pakistan’s largest omnivore, is reportedly on the verge of extinction. Only 27 bears remained in the Deosai plains in 1998. The Deosai National Park was established in 1993 as part of a joint effort between the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (HWF), the Northern Areas Forestry, Parks and Wildlife Department, and local communities. This was done to secure the survival of the brown bear in the Deosai Plains. These efforts have included involving local communities in the conservation process, co-ordinating with the local administration for the legal establishment of the Deosai National Park, and carrying out surveys and research on the brown bears and other biological resources. The field staff of the HWF conducted surveys at regular intervals to document the movement, behaviour and mortality of the bears. The bears were monitored using the technique of darting. After darting, the animal's vital signs were checked to ensure that no risk to the animal's life has been incurred. Samples of blood, teeth, hair and tissues are taken to get vital biological information about the species. As a result of these efforts a management plan for the Deosai National Park has been prepared and is in the process of implementation.
Traditionally the forest department also looked after the game animals; however in the 1970s the growing concerns on conservation issues led the government to create separate wildlife departments. Presently all the provinces except Balochistan have separate Wildlife Departments. While the NCCW National Council for the Conservation of Wildlife looks after the wildlife related issues at the federal level, it also liaises with the international organization and deals with CITES, Ramsar and the Convention on Migratory Species CMS.