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. 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.
Box 3: Farmland Planting in the Punjab Province12
Land is being cultivated more intensively and fertilised more frequently. Vegetation is considered weed and is removed to give way to staple crops. Consequently, animals and birds are finding it difficult to find living space. Insects are eliminated by the excessive use of pesticides. With the invention of irrigated agriculture and intensive cropping patterns, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers has increased manifold, resulting in vanishing wildlife and the extinction of wild flora. Even the soil and air-based microbial activity has been badly affected. The cultivated area of Punjab is over 11m ha out of 20.63m ha. The green revolution has increased the productivity of the crops many-fold, but due to the heavy reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides the biological equilibrium has been disturbed. This needs to be addressed. The options of agro-forestry and social forestry seem to be the answer. The Punjab Forest Department has more than a decade of experience in social forestry practices. Because of these efforts, there are about 17 trees per hectare in the Punjab province. This amount can be doubled as a result of the Punjab Forest Department’s experience. The social forestry, social range and scrub forest management approach has made it possible to address the problems of stakeholders. Development of woodlots on marginal and sub-marginal lands is a welcome step to providing habitats to wildlife, both macro and micro organisms, in addition to the amelioration of farm economy and the alleviation of rural poverty. Supportive research in the discipline of Biodiversity is essential but not fully covered in the social and farm forestry projects of the Punjab. In central Punjab, Dalbergia sissoo (Shisham) is dying in farmlands; this is attributed to the indiscriminate fertilisation and use of pesticides, and to the toxic effects of the unused nutrients. However, enough research has not been undertaken to arrive at definite conclusions.
The farm forestry projects in the Punjab showed that it was mostly market forces and lacks of Biodiversity awareness amongst the foresters and international consultants that resulted in the massive planting of the eucalyptus in the farmlands. This planting had been more prevalent in the northern districts of the province through the USAID Forestry Planning and Development Project. There is a big move against the planting of eucalyptus. The anti-eucalyptus campaign is inspired mainly by the campaign against it in neighbouring India, but no large-scale scientific studies have been conducted on its negative impacts. Influenced by the campaign, the present trend of the farmers in all the districts do not plant eucalyptus, and the sale of eucalyptus saplings from the forest and private nurseries has reduced significantly. There is a need to catalogue the extinct and threatened local trees and encourage their planting. Fortunately, many threatened local trees provide income to farmers by non-destructive exploitation - the fruit of Lassora and Amla are examples. Others have medicinal value like the pods of Dhak Butea monosperma.
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 as others has to deal with these three objectives. Reserve forests, especially those declared in the natural ecosystems of the hills, are the 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. One of the reasons attributed to the present system of forest management in Pakistan is the lack of sensitivity to harmonize forest related definitions; most definitions are assumptive, Appendix I gives an overview of the CBD forest related definitions.
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.