Wildlife is an integral part of the forest ecosystem. While managing the forested land, administrative considerations have prevailed on the ecosystem approach in Pakistan. Consequently, the Wildlife Department has been separated from the Forest Department in the provinces of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Azad Kashmir, while in Balochistan and the Northern Areas these are managed by a wildlife wing under the forest departments. This separation appears to have isolated the tree from the life dependent on it. All the management plans for the forestry sector are prepared in isolation from the wildlife management plans. Even the staff of the forestry and the wildlife departments has no common formal forum despite working in the same forests. There are no prescriptions in the management plans for the habitat requirements of the fauna. There is a need to harmonise the activities of both departments at all levels. The immediate requirement is to retain some percentage of dead, dry and fallen trees in the forests. Retention of some old and hollow trees is also necessary to eliminate the chances of the extinction of birds that fail to adapt to the intensification of agriculture and forestry practices.
There is an emphasis in our wildlife legislation on game management. Non-game species that are equally important are totally ignored, such as anteaters and some reptiles that are killed due to mere superstition. There is a need to develop strategies to conserve all forms of life.
4.4 The Biodiversity Convention, Forestry and Threats to Pakistan’s Forests
The three main components of the CBD are the conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing of biological resources. As a large proportion of Pakistan’s Biodiversity resides in forests, this sector has to deal with these three objectives. Reserve forests, especially those declared in the natural ecosystems of the hills, are the only major harbingers of Biodiversity. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are not only under threat due to human population pressure, but also face threats posed by the management practices of forest managers. Mining activities, heavy grazing pressures, and wood theft are some of the major external threats to forest Biodiversity. The large-scale introduction of exotic species, heavy tending operations and a silvicultural system based on commercial considerations are some of the threats posed by resource managers (as discussed in section 4.2 above). Large tracts of land near reserve forests that were left as communal or private property have been brought under intensive agricultural use throughout Pakistan. This and other development activities, such as the road and dam construction, are resulting in the fragmentation of ecosystems. The dangers in these threats should be realised, and strategies devised for the creation of biological corridors.
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 dialogue on how to bring forest management in conformity with the CBD in Pakistan.
4.5 Strategies, Polices and Legislation
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.
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 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 increasing large-scale deforestation, thereby providing an excellent opportunity for the rehabilitation of the forest. Although the overall impact of the ban was positive, the Forest Department did not succeed in providing an alternative system of forest management, and harvesting. Currently, efforts are underway to identify those forest stands, where commercial harvesting can be undertaken on a small scale. 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 and is in the final stages of approval, while the Forest Act has also been revised to better suit the current demands and trends of natural resource management. The establishment of a forestry commission is also planned. In the same way, necessary notification has been issued for the establishment of Forestry Round Tables where civil society viewpoints and concerns about sustainable natural resource management can be discussed. All these forums should towards broadening the future perspective of forest conservation and management.