FOREST resources are important for countries like Pakistan with an agro-based economy. Trees contribute to productivity of agriculture by protecting arable crops from hailstorms and windstorms, preventing lodging of crops, increasing productivity of soil, containing soil nutrient loss by wind and water erosion and keeping the climate moderate. A number of products and by-products including timber, charcoal, firewood, pulp, tannin, lignin, cellulose and wax are directly obtained from trees. Forests stabilise dams, reservoirs and the irrigation network of canals.The forest statistics of Pakistan compared to other agricultural countries is not encouraging. Only 4.28 million hectares (4.8 per cent) are under forest, for below the international requirements. About 2.72 per cent area of Punjab and 1.3 million hectares of Sindh are under forest. The share of forestry in the GDP is nominal at 0.15 per cent, which is not satisfactory.Compared to India?s 24.2 per cent, Japan?s 36.4per cent, Sri-Lanka?s 42.1 per cent, Philippines? 43.6 per cent, Korea?s 49.8 per cent, Bhutan?s 50.4 per cent, and Brunei’s 90.4 per cent, the total forest area of Pakistan is around four million hectares including 0.51, 1.33, 0.84 and 1.36 million hectares of Punjab, the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan, respectively.
The type of forests that exist in the country with relative share are moist and dry temperate coniferous 40 per cent, scrub 28 per cent, tropical thorn 3.5 per cent, man-made irrigated five per cent, riverian seven per cent, mangrove eight per cent and farm forests 11 per cent. Besides, there are juniper forests as well. These forests differ with respect to occurrence, environmental conditions, composition, management and economic importance. The moist temperate forest is present in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Murree, parts of districts of Abbottabad, Swat, Mansehra, including some tribal areas of Malakand and Hazara. The main tree species include deodar, fir, partal and kail. Oak, popular and horse chestnut are broad-leaf tress. This forest not only provides fuel wood and protection to Mangla and Tarbela watersheds but also constitute good source of quality timber. These forests could be valuable sites for recreation provided managed properly. Over-cutting, overgrazing, mismanagement and bad agricultural practices cause depletion.
Dry temperate forest is located in the Northern Areas, tribal areas and northern Balochistan. Chilgoza pine, pencil juniper and deodar are dominant tree species. Good quality timber obtained from pencil juniper used for making pencils. Other benefits are like of moist temperate forest.The scrub forest comprises open, bushy and branchy woody vegetation and is located in the Potohar region, the foothills of Murree and the NWFP hills. Scrub forests of rabbi hills (Kharian-Gujrat), Margalla hills (Islamabad) and Kalachitta Hills (Attock) are good examples.Kahu and Phulai are dominant tree species. The small timber with high chlorophic value is used in handicrafts, handles of hand tools and rural cots. The trees protect the watersheds of Tarbela and Mangla dams.Tropical thorn forest is dominated by xerophytes species such as karir, sarkand, van, kikar, jand and farash. Extensive and deep roots, a few, small and narrow leaves with thick coating and bearing a few stomata to cut down the evaporation losses, shedding of leaves during dry season and completion of life-cycle during the short moist season of these trees enable them to survive in drought-like conditions. This forest is suitable for grazing and wildlife.The non-availability of irrigational water, slow growth species, loss of wood by pilferage, diseases, insects, pests and weeds are different constraints facing the irrigated forest. Irrigated forests are managed for various reasons. To supply timber to local industry, fuel wood and recreational sites are few to name.
The Sindh’s river forests are facing decreased supply of water in the wake of building up of Tarbela and Mangla dams and a number of barrages on the Indus River. Dominant tree species are kikar, jand, farash and Bahn. The tree species of Punjab riverian forests include shisham and mulberry. Medium size timber and fuel wood and stabilisation of banks of rivers and canal banks are advantages. Over exploitation, pollution and changes in water quality, excessive cutting for fuel wood and fodder, solid industrial and domestic wastes and oil spills have resulted in the reduction of area under mangrove forests. The area of these forests has reduced from 263,000 hectare in 1978 to 158,500 hectare in 1990. There is a need of a comprehensive programme to educate local people about the value of mangroves to prevent cutting for fuel.To mobilize forest resources, it is imperative to control illicit grazing and gaming in the protected forest and wildlife areas, organizing and empowering local communities to assist in forest management, encouraging participatory management of the forests, reclaiming of water-logged and saline areas for raising of forests, promoting social and agro-forestry in villages and on farms to meet fuel wood and timber needs on sustainable basis and establishing necessaries in order to provide cost-free tree saplings to concerned personnel.
By: Bilal Hassan