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Sustainable Forest Management: Public-private Partnership




  • In determining the earth’s health, global forest cover is the most important indicator. The importance of forests cannot be overstated. From the ecological point of view, forests cycle nutrients, regulate climate, stabilise soil, treat water, provide habitat, lower the temperature, cause precipitation, clean environment by checking pollution and prevent soil from …

     

    In determining the earth’s health, global forest cover is the most important indicator. The importance of forests cannot be overstated. From the ecological point of view, forests cycle nutrients, regulate climate, stabilise soil, trea0t water, provide habitat, lower the temperature, cause precipitation, clean environment by checking pollution and prevent soil from erosion and floods, etc. From the commercial point of view, they are a source of fuel, wood, timber, gum, resin, turpentine oil, wood for matches, papers, sports goods, rayon and valuable medicinal herbs.
    Undoubtedly, forests are interconnected with all aspects of life. However, nowadays global warming is increasing rapidly due to speedy industrial growth and deforestation. Increasing population has increased the pressure on natural resources. The drive of the human beings to establish and strengthen their set up even at the maximum cost of natural resources is proving disastrous. The concept of need based utilisation of natural resources remains confined to only seminars, meetings and reports on environmental issues. Recently the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimated that more than two billion people rely on wood based fuel for their domestic energy needs, particularly rural and the least privileged community. Wood as a fuel is used for cooking food, boiling water and heating houses. Another survey by the World Bank (2000) supports the view that 25 percent of the poor population of the world depends, directly or indirectly, on forests for their livelihood.
    Worldwide forests cover an area of 3.96 billion hectares. This is almost one third of the earth?s land surface, excluding Antarctica and Greenland. Among the 3.96 billion hectares, 3.76 billion hectares are natural forests and 0.198 billion hectares are planted forests. This figure demonstrates the importance of natural forests, as it is very difficult to plant forests manually. If we do not find a way to stop the exploitation of natural forests, the situation will get worse. Two third of the world?s forests are located in ten countries, namely, Russia, Brazil, Canada, US, China, Australia, Congo, Indonesia, Angola and Peru. The largest portion of the world?s forest is in the Tropical zone (49 percent), in Boreal zone (24 percent), Temperate zone (13 percent) and Sub-tropical zone (eight percent).
    In the last decade of the twentieth century, the world has lost 94 million hectares of forests, i.e., the developing countries lost 130 million hectares, while the industrial world gained 36 million hectares. Geographically, during the same period, Africa lost 52, Asia lost three, Oceania lost three, North and Central America lost six and South America lost 37 million hectares of forests. Nigeria has suffered the worst forest loss. At 11.1 percent, Nigeria?s annual deforestation rate of natural forest is the highest in the world. During 2000-2005, Nigeria lost a staggering 55.7 percent of its primary forests. Similarly Vietnam lost 54.5 percent, Cambodia 29.4 percent, Sri Lanka 15.2 percent, Malawi 14.9 percent, and Indonesia 12.9 percent of its primary forest.
    In the last 15 years, Pakistan also faced a significant deforestation rate and lost 0.625 million hectares of forests. During the same period, the deforestation rate in Pakistan was 1 to 1.5 percent annually. A study based on remote sensing, shows that this deforestation rate will lead to the complete disappearance of forests by the year 2020.This rate of deforestation in Pakistan is very alarming. In order to achieve the millennium development goals, the government of Pakistan is striving hard to increase the forest area up to six percent by the year 2011 and up to seven percent by the year 2015. The government is promoting the concepts of social forestry, integrated participatory watershed management and bio-diversity conservation in the shifting paradigm to sustainable forest management. The government has taken another step towards forest management and forest conservation by involving the private sector along with the public sector as ?public- private partnership.? This is not an entirely new idea. In the past, Joint Forest Management ( JFM) was a concept based on sharing products, responsibilities and control on decision making over forest lands. A public-private partnership is basically a contract between the private sector and the public sector that calls for the private sector as a partner to provide the desired services and in return receive benefits from the government in any shape, as decided in the formal agreement.
    The primary purpose of joint forest management was to give the local user a stake over all benefits and decision regarding sustainable forest management; and to ensure an equitable distribution of forest products. Apparently it seems to be a very good system, but as experience shows, it could not produce the expected results and forest depletion was maximum during the joint management period. In some developing countries, the governments allowed logging companies to cut trees, if they plant replacement trees. However, after cutting the forests, the companies left the land barren and moved to other areas. Therefore, in developing the future strategy for public-private partnership, the government should take into consideration all the past experiences to ensure the sustainability of forest. It is not only important to minimise the deforestation rate, but also to conserve the livelihood assets of the people living nearby the forests.
    By: Muhammad Arif Wattoo, Shoukat Ali and M. Waqar Abbas

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