About the Author
Mr. Israr ul Haq, Director General Audit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Deforestation has become a social challenge and policy conundrum in Pakistan. While the country is globally ranked 135th in the greenhouse gases emission, it is ranked the 16th most vulnerable and 7th most affected country by climate change. Although the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa houses 38 percent of forests in the country; it has the fastest rate of deforestation in the country, too, with the forecasted annual deforestation rate of 1.5 percent. Thus, this draws the province into limelight for assessing the policy response of the government. The flagship Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP), under the Green Growth Initiative of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (GoKP), is dubbed as a revolutionary step towards sustainable environment and forest management in the province and has captivated the attention of both the public and researchers alike. The success of BTAP’s plantation, its socio-economic impact, the selection of species, and its overall effectiveness as the driver of green revolution has been researched by many with very few casting any significant doubts on the success and progress the project has made in rehabilitating the forests, duly acknowledged by independent sources, yet the underlying causes of deforestation have seldom been addressed, thus, it fell considerably short of spurring a green revolution. The causes of deforestation are multifaceted ranging from individual acts to state patronage, with economic dependence on these forests being the primary reason.
This Auditorial analysis concludes that without forest sector reforms, alternative energy, creating economic opportunities, adopting participatory approach, and having people’s ownership, any initiative taken by the government will fail to take off. The forest sector, the life line of the rural economy, needs government’s attention both at policy formulation and implementation levels. The study also recommends prioritizing environment management and ecology through primary legislation, mass awareness, and policy implementation. In order to treat the underlying causes of deforestation, the government needs to provide and incentivize alternative means of energy along with other economic opportunities to stop reliance on forests. Furthermore, eco-tourism and due recognition of people’s input in forest management are imperative for sustainable forest management in the province.
Forests are part of important natural resources of any country. In Pakistan, forests are important on two counts: firstly, they have their due role in keeping environment of the country clean, and secondly, they directly support the country’s rural economy. Pakistan is ranked as the 7th most affected country by climate change despite the fact that the country ranks 135th on the Global Greenhouse Gases (GHS) index (Aslam, Gul and Asghar, 2021). Therefore, the issue of deforestation poses an existential threat to the forest-starved country where the area under forests is only 5.1 percent (4.478 million hectares) of its total land mass with availability of only 0.0021 hectares forest area per person against one hectare per person globally.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has a total forest coverage of around 1.70 million hectares, which accounts for almost 38 percent of the total forests of Pakistan (Asalam et al., 2021). However, the rate of deforestation in the province is also quite rapid as, according to Global Forest Watch, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lost 0.83 percent of its total forest area from 2000 to 2020 alone. Against this backdrop, the policy response of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (GoKP) needs detailed assessment because the problem of deforestation is no more a local issue rather it now has international implications. The vulnerability of the country to the hazards of climate change puts it on the knife edge. It is, therefore, imperative that government measures are targeted towards long-term sustainability of forests in the province.
Successive governments have undertaken several measures to stem the deforestation. However, lack of long-term planning and an approach to treat the symptoms rather than causes has left much to be desired. Nevertheless, the incumbent government has taken certain measures to tackle the issue of deforestation coupled with endeavours for afforestation, regeneration of forests, and curbing of commercial logging of timber (Mehmood, Yaseen, Ud-Din, Basdsah, Khan and Haroon, 2017). The initiatives of the incumbent government, springing from its proposed ‘Green Growth Initiative’, envision bequeathing a more liveable future to the next generation (Khan and Aslam, 2015).
The ‘Green Growth Initiative (GGI)’ envisages providing long-term sustainable development, green growth, and social uplift of the community. The litmus test of these initiatives was the flagship Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP), which has been dubbed as an overall success by the GoKP (Mehmood et al., 2017). Thus, an in-depth auditorial analysis of the implementation of Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP) and the ensuing Ten-Billion Tsunami Afforestation Project (10-BTAP) to gauge the efficacy of these projects towards controlling deforestation and providing opportunities for sustainable development is imperative. In addition to that, based on analysis of the measures taken by the government, this paper will provide recommendations regarding policy intervention and what needs to be done to make forests part of drivers of green growth in the province.
Analysis of Issues and Challenges
1.1. Forest Management in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has a total forest coverage of around 1.70 million hectares, which accounts for almost 38 percent of the total forests of Pakistan (Asalam et al., 2021). Moreover, around 66 percent of the total coniferous trees of the country are located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, deforestation poses imminent threat to the ecosystem and environmental balance of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In the last two decades alone, the province lost 0.83 percent of its forest cover to deforestation, which primarily is caused by human activities (Mallick and Masood, 2011). Still alarming is the fact that the forest management has been hardly prioritized by the successive governments. It is, thus, imperative that both the causes and remedial measures are assessed diametrically to provide policy recommendations to the issue. Majority of the forest cover is in the northern part of the province, which, incidentally happens to be among the most impoverished districts of the province.
1.1.1. Legal Framework of Forest Management
The primary legislation that governed the management and administration of forests in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (previously called North-West Frontier Province) province was the colonial era’s Pakistan Forest Act of 1927, followed by a plethora of other laws enacted from time to time. As per the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, forest management is a provincial subject, and the provincial legislature is empowered to enact laws for its management and administration. The chronology of legal instruments enacted from time to time is given as tabled below (Table-1).The latest among these laws has been the NWFP Forest Ordinance 2002, now named as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Ordinance 2002. As highlighted in the Table-1, there are a myriad of laws with overlapping jurisdictions and conflicts of interest. Although the latest legislation i.e.,. the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Ordinance 2002 has filled the void somewhat, community ownership and complex organizational setup of forest department make the forest management a difficult task.
Table-1: Showing Laws / Legal Instruments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Forest
|Sr#||Laws/ Legal Instruments|
|1||NWFP Forest Ordinance 2002|
|2||NWFP Forestry Commission Act 1999|
|3||Hazara Forest (Amendment) Ordinance 1997|
|4||Cutting of Tree (Prohibition) Act 1992|
|5||NWFP (Forests Conservation & Exploitation in Hazara) Ordinance 1980|
|6||NWFP Forest Development Corporation Ordinance 1980|
|7||Hazara Forest and Local Government Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 1978|
|8||NWFP Establishment of Sale Depots and Sawing Units Rules 1975|
|9||NWFP Forest Produce Transport Rules 1975|
|10||NWFP Management of Protected Forest Rules 1975|
|11||Hazara District Protected Forest Rules 1973|
|12||NWFP Forest Officers Powers, Duties and Rewards Rules 1973|
|13||NWFP Timber Market (Peshawar) Ordinance 1972|
|14||West Pakistan Firewood and Charcoal Restriction Act 1964|
|15||Forest Transport Rules 1952|
|16||River Rules 1952|
|17||Hazara Management of Waste Land (Guzaras) Rules 1950|
|18||NWFP Protection of Trees and Brushwood Act 1949|
|19||Pakistan Forest Act 1927|
1.1.2. Institutional Framework of Forest Management
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the management of forest has also been made difficult by the community ownership of forests, namely the Gozara Forests. In the erstwhile princely states, such as Swat and Dir districts, the Gozara Forests are under ownership of the community, who claim their inalienable rights over these forests. Although logging, cutting, harvesting, and transportation have been forbidden in these forests, due to community ownership, illicit cutting for domestic use and firewood continues unabated (Hasan, 2007). Likewise, the provincial forest department is viewed as a revenue generation department, and every year revenue target is set for the department to achieve (Ali, Ahmad, Shahbaz and Suleri, 2007). Herein lies the rub, as the major source of revenue generation for the forest department is harvesting of trees, be as it may, only windfall trees are harvested, still it amounts to deforestation and disturbance of the ecosystem.
Furthermore, the provincial wildlife department, which is also under the administrative control of the Secretary Forest Department, is against the harvesting of trees of any kind as it is viewed as a measure of deforestation. This conflict in interpretation of forest management is further accentuated by the presence of Forest Development Corporation (FDC). The FDC is a corporation tasked with harvesting, transporting, and auctioning of windfall and other damaged trees in the forest. Thus, there is overlapping jurisdiction among various departments and the issue is perceived and approached in a different manner by these bodies (Ali et al., 2007). Another less attended aspect in forest management is environment and ecology. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Ordinance 2002 has only defined environment and ecology, in the definition clauses, but there are no explicit provisions in the Ordinance regarding environment and ecology that has left a considerable void in the primary legislation.
1.1.3. Forest Offences and Prosecution
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Ordinance 2002 and the Cutting of Tree (Prohibition) Act 1992 give powers of arrest, search, and confiscation of the property in forest offences through a special forest magistrate to prosecute. Forest officers are also empowered to dispose of the forest offences through a summary trial. Accordingly, section 96 of the Forest Ordinance 2002 enshrines that if an accused does not request or the forest officer refuses to compound a case, he may refer the same for prosecution. It, thus, provides the forest officer with the discretion to refer the cases to prosecution without compounding them, which ultimately results in lengthy trials and damage to the forest property (Hasan, 2007). Moreover, besides creating deterrence, offences that are compounded through summary trial are also a source of revenue to the government. These discretionary powers of the forest officers have neither been abolished nor reviewed towards a transparent and effective case disposal and improved forest management (Hasan, 2007).
1.2. Environment and Ecology
Having ranked 7thmost affected country by the global climate change, the United Nations has made Pakistan part of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) compensatory program that provides for conservation of environment, ecosystem and biodiversity and encourages undertaking initiatives regarding conservation of environment, eco-system, and biodiversity (Zahid, 2018). Keeping in view the pivotal position of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, hosting the biggest forest cover in the country, it is of utmost importance that efforts are afoot on behalf of the GoKP to meet the standards set forth by UN-REDD. In this context, BTAP has again been put forth to kick start moving the province towards achieving REDD targets (Zahid, 2018). The Green Growth vision of the GoKP is also touted as a step towards achieving the REDD targets. Moreover, a targeted project to gauge the quantum of carbon stocks for REDD in the province with a budgetary outlay of Rs 40 million has been started since 2013. Likewise, the Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI), Peshawar has been entrusted with the responsibility to conduct a thorough study to assess the carbon stocks in the province. The proposed study is part of a two-year initiative to meet the preparedness and readiness requirements of UN-REDD.
Having said that, these measures alone do not suffice the requirement of UN-REDD, if the deforestation continues the way it has been in the past as no matter how much plantation, afforestation, and reforestation are done, the carbon stocks will keep on rising in the province. Moreover, in the absence of statutory provisions and explicit mention of environment management, acquiring the requisite target of carbon stocks seems a far-fetched cry (Hasan, 2007).
1.3. Major Causes of Deforestation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The causes of deforestation across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province vary from district to district; however, the socio-economic causes are consistent among all the districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The factors that lead to deforestation are driven by the reliance of rural economy on the forests. Forests are mainly located in the hilly areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, thus, the people residing in close proximity have very few economic opportunities (Rabbi, Ali, Hayat and Zia Ullah, 2017). People living in the area have limited access to the mainland and have little resources available for exploiting off-farm economic opportunities. Putting this into context, the people of the area are primarily reliant on forests for their very basic needs. Moreover, majority of the population living in these districts is poor, having very few resources to make ends meet. Livestock rearing is one of the basic sources of livelihood of the people of the area, which is ultimately dependent on forests for their grazing and fodder (Rabbi et al., 2017). Although the forest department is striving hard to preserve forests and pastures from unbridled grazing, the local population has no other viable option to sustain their livelihood. Likewise, the animal fodder available in forests, when grazed freely by livestock, results in diminishing of precious flora of forests. It has also been observed that many important floras have become extinct in these forests due to free animal grazing (Rabbi et al., 2017).
On the flip side, the locals complain of harvesting of forests produced by timber mafia in garb of windfall and other natural calamities, which has adversely affected their own source of livelihood (Ali et al., 2007). Dietary use of forest produce is yet another factor putting a strain on forests of the province. Poor population of the area harvests fruits and other produce for their dietary requirements, which is also a cause of concern and contributes to upsetting the natural flora and fauna of forests. Moreover, the quest for harvesting medicinal plants and herbs for domestic as well as commercial purposes has disturbed the ecosystem of these forests. The harvesting of plants for medicinal use has been in practice in these areas for ages so much so that it is considered by the local people as their inherent right and duty to preserve their ancestral business (Rabbi et al., 2017).
Moreover, the longing for the business and its passage as an heirloom to the next generation is a matter of pride among these families. Thus, it becomes very difficult for the forest department to control the harvest of these plants despite the fact that these people have been apprehended and punished time and again (Hasan, 2007).
1.3.1. Illegal Logging
Illegal logging is perhaps the biggest cause of deforestation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Although there is no definitive explanation of the term ‘illegal logging’ as various scholars have defined it differently; however, the simplest explanation of the term in the literature is any activity which is against the provision of forest laws (Usman, 2017). There are various causes of illegal logging in the forests of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The most common cause referred to is the illegal cutting of trees by the timber mafia for commercial activities. The notorious term “timber mafia” is quite often forwarded as the main cause of deforestation, with each side accusing the other of harbouring, aiding, and abetting this mafia. Although both the government and the people of the area accept the presence of the mafia, both pass on the buck to each other for its illegal activities (Hasan, 2007). It is pertinent to mention here that it is not only the forest department which is to be blamed for the illegal activities of the timber mafia; it is also a testament to the weak institutional framework of the entire governmental machinery that these elements operate even in this day and age.
1.3.2. Inadequacy of Forest Laws and their Enforcement
Since the forest department is primarily tasked to put their activities on the leash, it gets the blame for any error, omission, and commission (Ashraf and Usman, 2017). It is, therefore, imperative to look into the factors that are responsible for the unfettered logging of timber in these forests. The first question that naturally arises among the minds of the researchers is whether the laws enacted and enforced are adequate or not? The answer to the question is not that straightforward; in fact, one can criticise the GoKP for having so many laws with regard to the protection and conservation of forests (Khanand Nadeem, 2017). Thus, the presence of this plethora of laws has led to overlapping jurisdiction among various departments, which is often exploited by these elements. Another question that begs discussion is whether forest offenders are adequately punished, if punished at all? Forest offenders, particularly those involved in illegal logging are dealt with in either of the ways; their offences are either compounded with a summary trial on the spot or they are sent for prosecution as PCs (Prosecution Cases) (Khan and Nadeem, 2017). The compounded cases are punished based on nature of the offence, its currency by the offenders, and the nature of the timber.
1.3.3. Connivance of Forest Department with Timber Mafia
Connivance of the forest department with the timber mafia is another accusation that needs proper investigation to weed out the root causes of deforestation across the province. There are three main theories put forth with regards to the notorious timber mafia and forest department connivance. Firstly, it is often stated that a weak institutional framework is responsible for laying the foundation of mafia and forest department alliance. Secondly, since forests are in peripheral areas which are difficult for poor countries to develop, otherwise that creates an overall economic vacuum which in turn is exploited by these elements. Lastly, it is argued that due to weak penal laws, economic benefits for both the parties are so enormous that it is difficult for the governments to break this alliance (Robbins, 2000). Still further, is the stereotypical theory of “rent-seeking” put forth by many researchers as the main cause of spread of the timber mafia reinforced by a syndicate of rent-seeking bureaucrats, government officials, and local politicians who share their own portion of the pie in the illegal logging of forests due to which they turn a blind eye to the illegal activities happening under their noses (Robbins, 2000).
Deeply intertwined with economic benefits theory for illegal logging, the rent-seeking approach provides to all stakeholders a win-win situation to share the accruing economic benefits, albeit at the expense of environmental degradation; hence, every stakeholder conveniently gets maximum out of it (Ali, Furad, Ibrar and Shah, 2020). This intrusion is so permeated that even the legal tendering process of cutting trees for harvesting was taken over by the Forest Development Corporation (FDC) due to the vanished faith of the people. However, it was not long before when FDC became controversial as it was accused of illegal extra harvesting in the same manner as the private contractors were doing (Ali et al., 2020). Thus, there is a general mistrust among the people regarding the role of the forest department in controlling the timber mafia. Although, there is a handsome reward under the Forest Act to apprehend those involved in the illicit cutting of forests, it does not pay rich dividends in terms of controlling the illegal activities of the timber mafia.
1.3.4. Image of Forest Department – Public Trust Deficit
As obscure as it may sound, there is a general scepticism with respect to the commitment of the forest department towards curbing deforestation. It has often been asked as to how it is even possible that a forest is subjected to illegal cutting when it is manned by the forest force? Afterwards, this illicit cutting is intended for commercial purposes, and can hardly be consumed in the local area, thus, how is it possible for it to leave the vicinity when every crossing point has a forest check-post which is manned by the forest force? These are questions which challenge the very existence of the forest department. Although, it is almost impossible to stop all levels of deforestation in such a difficult terrain, the general perception about the role of the government is a major cause for concern (Hasan, 2007).The recent green growth initiative of the incumbent government also emphasizes on community engagement so as to bring back a sense of ownership among the local population with respect to forests and improve public perception about the government and its institutions (Usman, 2017).
1.4. Pressure of the Growing Population
Pakistan is ranked as the 2nd most populated country among the Muslim countries and the 3rd largest in the region, which is also house to the two most populated countries of the world (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002). Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the natural resources of the country are under the population siege. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is no different as its population has also been increasing at a steady pace. Resultantly, the human intrusion into the forest reserves is a foregone conclusion. The biggest proponent of the human impact on forest degradation is the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation (THED), which states that forest intrusion through human activities is the major cause of deforestation. These include agricultural expansion into forest lands, use of forest for combustion, livestock rearing, and other allied human activities. All these factors are attributed to the population explosion in the country (Ali et al., 2007). Although the theory has been vehemently criticised for its over-simplistic approach, as population growth and management have different contours altogether, its impact on highlighting the challenges faced in the way of proper forest management cannot be denied.
Another issue deeply linked with population explosion is the strain on forests for firewood. The use of forest for firewood is one of the basic sources of livelihood of these people. There are three factors primarily responsible for the use of forests for combustion purposes. Firstly, people residing in forests are extremely poor who find forests to be an easy source of livelihood to meet their basic needs. Secondly, people of forest area experience extreme winters with constant snowing and below zero-degree Celsius temperatures, particularly in the forest districts of Kalam, Upper Dir, Shangla, Chitral, Maneshra, and Kohistan Hasan (2007), thus, these people consume many fold more firewood in winters. Lastly, the absence of alternative sources of energy makes the matter worse. Very few areas of the aforementioned districts are entirely connected to the national electricity grid whereas access to natural gas is almost entirely missing (Hasan, 2007). Resultantly, people of the area are left with no other alternative but to burn forest trees as a source of energy.
Small run of the river dams and renewable solar energy initiatives have so far been unable to ease out the pressure on forests, however, providing solar energy is not only capital intensive but also requires patronage from the private sector, which is practically non-existent in these areas due to extreme poverty (Usman, 2017). Moreover, the excessive use of wood in cultural ceremonies such as marriages etc, which are part and parcel of lifestyle of these areas, is another factor that is responsible for unbridled use of firewood. The cultural outlook and lifestyle of these dwellers has certain traits that form inevitable causes of deforestation in the province, for instance, the construction style of housing in the area is heavily reliant on the use of wood (Ali et al., 2007). The general structural design of houses and other buildings is such that an excessive use of wood is the basic requirement of the design. Here again, it would be naïve to expect that people are going to change their lifestyle or the way they construct houses overnight, reasons being that wood is readily available in the area and that too at cheaper rates. Furthermore, the cost of transportation of alternative material for construction is far too high (Hasan, 2017).
1.5. Natural Calamities and other Factors
Natural disasters and other calamities have also not spared the forests of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The repeated floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and other disasters have contributed to the degradation of the forests in the province. Although these natural disasters cannot be averted entirely, preparedness on the part of the government and the community can certainly help in mitigating the impact of these disasters. Another incident of its kind was reported in 2008-09, during militancy in the district Swat, despite the fact that majority of the people fled the area; it was found through satellite imaging that 58 hectares of forest was directly reduced during the period (Ali et al., 2020). On top of it, Swat has been the site of frequent wildfires, which has adversely affected the flora and fauna of the area. It has often been alleged that these incidents of forest fires are deliberate arson attacks on wild forests by the local population. During the period between 1993 to 2000, 20 incidents of forest fires were reported (Ali et al., 2020). These have been categorically characterized as deliberate fire-bombing by local population. There are two reasons put forth for these deliberate slash fires, firstly, the local community intends to clear forest area for agriculture purposes. Secondly, the intended fire is used as a tool to provide inlet to main forest and pastures for free grazing of livestock (Rabbi et al., 2017).
Over the years, the areas hosting forests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have become a major tourist attraction for both local and foreign tourists. This has led to road link expansion and population influx to these areas. Moreover, tourism has become one of the major sources of living for the local people, with many other small businesses and entrepreneurships been anchored by this industry. Hoteling business has seen enormous expansion, with mushroom growth of small cottages, resorts, and restaurants along with major hotels in these areas (Rabbi et al., 2017). This has resulted in a massive strain on the forest resources as the people have lavishly used wood in the construction of these hotels. Tourism in itself is not a bad phenomenon; in fact, it has provided a lifeline to an otherwise economically deprived area of the province. However, due to a lack of governmental oversight and vision, it has become a cause of concern. It may sound a cliché that one must not kill the goose that lays golden eggs, but a similar thing is happening in the forests’ rich districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the very source of livelihood has been under siege from the local population. Furthermore, due to lack of awareness and governmental patronage, the concept of eco-tourism has not been recognized by the people of the area (Rabbi et al., 2017).
Government response to forest management
Response of the GoKP towards tackling the problem has received little attention among researchers, with still fewer appreciating efficacy of the projects targeted at curbing deforestation. Perhaps the biggest reason behind the dearth of quality and detailed research about the endeavours of the government with respect to deforestation is the lack of patronage by the government. Moreover, the Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI), Peshawar has done little to highlight the measures taken by the government and their efficacy thereof. Against this backdrop, it is difficult to provide a conclusive research opinion about the past endeavours of the government. Another aspect of forest management that has grabbed little attention is the campaign for social awareness and inculcating a sense of ownership among the people of the area about the forests. The focus of policy makers and researchers alike has been on the monetary side of the forest management measures, with a focus on the impact of forest management projects in increasing and controlling illicit cutting. However, the social aspect of these measures hardly gets any attention; participatory approach and community engagement, key tools of forest management, are disregarded in these measures (Cadman, Sarkar, Muttaqin, Nurfatriani, Sliminah and Maraseni, 2019).
1.1 Forest Management Interventions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The most effective project that has gathered much attention in recent history in terms of forest management is the Forestry Sector Management Project (FSMP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 1995 to 2004. The project was a joint-donor-funded project executed by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department. The project envisaged to increase productivity of high hill forests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, intensifying forest management, and improving capacity of the provincial forest department. The project was jointly financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Dutch Government providing $28 million and $14 million, respectively for the planned activities (Aslam et al, 2021). The project was dubbed as a resounding success with achieving all its proposed targets. The project managed to rehabilitate 175,000 hectares of wasteland, besides improving 79,000 of rangeland and supporting farming of trees over an area of 3,000 hectares. The most important aspect of the project was capacity building of the forest department, wherein the forest department was enabled to introduce new forest rules for better forest management. On top of it, multi-level forest planning was introduced, which empowered specialized forest agencies to have their respective inputs into the future plans for forest management. To cite an instance, it was considered mandatory that any scheme or proposed project relating to watershed forest management is to be initiated only after getting thorough feedback from watershed forest divisions.
Likewise, the Forest Act of 1927 was replaced with the Forest Ordinance 2002, wherein for first time, the terms “environment” and “ecology” were added to the basic law of forest management, albeit, in the definition clauses; nonetheless, it was the first ever step in the history of the forest department that environment and ecology were given due recognition as part and parcel of forest management (Aslam et al., 2021). Moreover, other structural reforms such as putting into gear specialized research and development directorate in the department, coupled with human resource management, and community and gender development were effective steps towards better forest management. However, it was highlighted that the forest department was not fully equipped in terms of its professional capacity to effectively translate these structural reforms into meaningful forest management (Hasan, 2007). There is no quick fix available for bringing change in the thinking and approach of operational staff of the forest department to get it in sync with modern participatory approach of foresting along with accepting community engagement and ownership in the forest management. The fact was realized at the time of the execution of FSMP; however, it could not be pushed further at that stage as it would have jeopardized the smooth working of the project (Aslam et al., 2021).
In terms of area specific measures, the Kalam Integrated Development Project (KIDP) was the biggest project executed in the KalamValley of Malakand Division. Since becoming a major tourist attraction for both local and foreign tourists, the Kalamvalley forests were under consistent pressure of human intrusion. It again was a donor-assisted project with Swiss Development Cooperation providing 41.510 million Swiss Francs. The project had two main objectives: firstly, it focused on better management through better harvesting techniques; secondly, it envisioned providing alternative economic opportunities to the people of the area by promoting the plantation of off-season vegetables and improving access roads through community engagement. The project had a huge impact in terms of community outreach as it advocated a participatory approach. Moreover, the people of the area who were previously starved of alternative economic opportunities, made good of the opportunity (Hasan, 2007). The project spanned over 17 years from 1981 to 1988 and had considerable success in promoting the participatory development model in the area. However, the project did not fare well on account of better forest management. The people of the area were well sensitized on the role of sustainable forest management for their livelihood, however, as soon as the project was wound up, the pressure on forests started relentlessly due to a boom in tourism in the valley. The demand for hotels and restaurants meant that forests were under siege again (Nazir and Ahmad, 2018).
Malakand Dir Social Forestry Project (MDSFP) was yet another significant project in the Malakand Division focusing on district Swat and Dir. The project lasted a decade from 1987 to 1997 and aimed at the afforestation of barren patches of protected forests in the targeted districts. Although there is little literature available to assess the success of the afforestation drive, much has been stated about the success of the project in engaging local communities in the afforestation drive (Nazir and Ahmad, 2018). Siran-Kaghan Forestry Development Project (SKFDP) was yet another project aimed at artificial restocking of coniferous forests of Kaghan and Siran valleys. The project was assisted by GIZ, aimed at quick restocking of coniferous trees harvested due to windfall as the natural regeneration took more time and was also vulnerable to animal grazing. The project also put to test the concept of Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) for forest management. Through JFMC, the harvesting of windfall trees and afforestation were executed, which paved the way for the incorporation of the role of JFMC in future legislations. However, in the instant project, the JFMC could not meet the targets of the project in its entirety (Aslam et al., 2021).
1.2. Green Growth Initiative of Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The Green Growth Initiative (GGI) was launched by the incumbent GoKP, which promised a green revolution with a vision to bequeath a more liveable environment to provincial posterity. The GGI was envisioned as a comprehensive program that would bring structural changes at both governmental and societal level for a better environment and forest management in the province. Furthermore, the GGI also envisaged providing long-term sustainable development, green growth, and social uplift of the community. In order to put GGI into gear, an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Green Growth (ICGG) under the supervision of Chief Minister was constituted along with a task force to provide technical support to fast-track the proposed “Green Growth” (Khan, 2015). The ICGG was tasked with quantifiable targets to identify areas for governmental intervention in forests, national parks, and other areas showing climate resilience and vulnerability, which has been a significant step in signalling government’s seriousness towards achieving its objectives. Under the umbrella of GGI, the incumbent government is also conducting studies to assess the overall carbon stocks of the province in order to get maximum benefits of compensatory program of the United Nations, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) (Khan and Nadeem, 2016).
Moreover, assessing the total carbon stocks of the province will pave the way for comparing and contrasting the before and after impact of future projects targeting reduction of carbon emission in the province. Keeping fore going in the context, the flagship Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP) of the incumbent government has a much wider connotation than just being an afforestation project. The proposed objectives of the project include the following:
- Development and conservation of forests for sustainable future availability of timber, fodder, and firewood.
- Mitigating and lowering carbon emission for reducing the impact of climate change.
- Providing income-generating opportunities for forest dwellers along with improving the quality of environment.
- Community participation for production of seedlings and nursery raising.
- Ejection of encroachers from forest land and plantation, sowing, and diddling of indigenous species thereof.
- Establishment of closures to curb free grazing and inducing natural regeneration of forests, accounting for 60 percent of the afforestation target.
- Carrying block plantation over community as well as government land to increase forest cover.
- Raising 10 percent plants through private entrepreneurship i.e., youth, women, senior citizens, and progressive farmers.
As the name of the project suggests, the project envisaged to carry out one billion afforestation with 40 percent plantation and 60 percent natural regeneration of forests (Aslam et al., 2021). The project covers an area of 593,293 hectares with a total investment of Rs. 11 billion. It has been estimated that the project would bring 6.1 percent of additional area into forest cover (Aslam et al., 2021). It has also been asserted by the department that against the target of 1,000 million, 1,018 million seedlings have been planted and regenerated along with creation of 0.5 million additional jobs in the forestry sector. The project has been dubbed as an overall success by the government and forest department alike. It has also been claimed that the success of the project is substantiated by independent sources, such as third-party monitoring by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) (Khan, Hussain, Saad, Rukh and Ahmed, 2017). The final report of the three-series report states that against the target of 2,850 closures, the department established 4,007 closures which indicates an over-achievement of 21.2 percent. The establishment of closures was one aspect of the project however the important aspect of these closures was maintenance and watch and ward to stop free grazing of livestock so as to ensure natural regeneration of forests. To ascertain this fact, the WWF-Pakistan team directly monitored 406 closures, covering an area of 25,009 hectares and collected data from 253 sites. The WWF-Pakistan report observed that the average density of seedlings in these closures was 2,412 seedlings per hectares, which was in sync with the targets of the project.
Moreover, the report also asserts that the forest department carried out plantation on 103,973 hectares of land. In the closures selected for monitoring, the WWF-Pakistan observed that the survival of block plantation was 84.8 percent in forests while it stood at 83.5 percent at roads and canal side catchment area (Khan et al., 2017). Likewise, the survival rate of plantation in the woodlots was 75.8 percent. The aforementioned statistics suggest that the project had achieved the majority of its targets. Interestingly, the over-achievement in establishment of closures also paved the way for housing majority of the jobs conceived in the project. In a bid to reclaim and rehabilitate the waterlogged and saline areas in various parts of the province, a total area of 9,884 hectares was treated against the target of 1,000 hectares by planting suitable species to reclaim the waterlogged and saline areas. The results were very encouraging as the success rate of the plantation at these sites was 83.4percent (Khan et al., 2017). Similarly, for the reclamation of bad sites a total area of 962 hectares was treated against the target of 950 hectares through various bioengineering methods. These sites were treated with small check dams, gabion walls, stone soling, gabion spurs, lose vegetative stone wall, brushwood check dams, brush wood layering, and vegetation, etc. However, the success rate of the vegetation and other measures varied ranging from 35 to 85 percent depending on the level of human intrusion in the sites.
Similarly, the project had also envisaged treating 10 degraded watersheds, out of which 6 watersheds were treated in which the measures proved to be very effective however the department fell short of achieving the proposed target for the activity (Khan et al., 2017). For afforestation, the department had set targets of raising departmental nurseries, including 35 hectares of potted and 136 hectares of bare rooted nurseries respectively. Against these targets, the forest department was able to raise 182 hectares of nurseries and transferred 60 million seedlings. The overall average success rate, based on the sites monitored, of seedlings for plantation was 91 percent, while the success of planted seedlings was 85.8 percent. Thus, it was a resounding success, which contributed a lot in achieving the afforestation targets of the project. Likewise, the report also asserts that 8,990 units of private nurseries which were raised by involving the youth, senior citizens and women from the local community also contributed in providing plants in the afforestation drive. In the private nurseries the rate of survival of potted was 91.7 percent, and that of bare rooted was 89.1 percent. However, the participation of women in private nurseries was few and far between due to a male-dominant industry and overall social fabric in the province which seldom gives women the chance to take lead in the said field (Khan et al., 2017).
The overall success of the plantation as assessed by the WWF-Pakistan is 88.6 percent; the proposed afforestation of one billion trees was targeted to be achieved through 60 percent natural reforestation and 40 percent plantation, against which 59 percent of the proposed targets from closures and 37.2 percent from plantation were achieved, respectively. Thus, it can safely be concluded that the project was an overall success. Considering that it was the first of its kind since the inception of Pakistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department has rightly been commended for its successful execution and completion.
Having said that, there have been some lessons learnt, which need due consideration in the future projects. The species selected for plantation need due care as 19 percent of the plantation across the province consists of eucalyptus, which is a water intensive plant (Khan et al., 2017). At a time when the underground water table has already reached an alarmingly low level, excessive plantation could prove detrimental for the water starved country. Likewise, the low participation of women in the private nurseries is a major cause of concern as the project was meant for providing economic opportunities to people across the board regardless of gender. Furthermore, the selection of negihbans i.e., community watch guards for the protection of closures through Village Development Councils (VDCs) irked many people for lack of proportionate representation. It was often alleged that due to nexus between local elders and the representatives of forest department, nepotism and favouritism was done while employing the forest watch guards and deserving people were deprived of this opportunity (Rauf, Khan, Shah, Malik, Yukun and Sadique, 2019).
1.3. From Billion to Ten-Billion Tree Afforestation Project
Upon successful completion of the Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP), the federal government of Pakistan launched Ten-Billion Tree Afforestation Project (10-BTAP) in 2019. The planned provision for the GoKP is Rs 27 billion, spanning over a period of four years, thus, making it the biggest afforestation project in the history of the province. The activities envisaged in the 10-BTAP are almost similar to the BTAP as far as afforestation is concerned. However, much to the surprise of everyone, the activity of private nursery raising and involving private nursery farmers for afforestation has been shelved in the 10-BTAP. Despite the success of BTAP due to active community participation in it, shelving the involvement of community is a no brainer. Although there has been no official clarification tendered for the activity, it has been surmised that the forest department was not satisfied with the role of private nursery owners. The activities of the project are yet to be reviewed, and it remains to be seen how far the 10-BTAP will be successful in achieving its targets.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The importance of forests in the present-day world has increased manifold, owing to its role in stabilizing the overall environment and ecosystem of a country. As the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is blessed with forests and houses a majority of the forests in Pakistan, the pressure on its forests is also immense. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, more importantly, the area which hosts these forests is among the most economically impoverished areas of the country accordingly the forests of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are extremely vulnerable; as people grapple to make ends meet, forests provide them a key source of livelihood. It is, thus, no surprise that 70 percent of the forests of the province are categorized as degraded and not in their natural state. The rot does not stop here; the rate of deforestation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also the highest in the country with various factors contributing to this deforestation. Realizing the severity of the issue, the measures taken by the government through the Grown Growth Initiative signify determination and commitment of the government to tackle the issue head on. In fact, the measures taken by the provincial government have been replicated by the federal government. The contribution of foreign donors has also been significant in providing alternative means of livelihood; however, the impact on minimizing deforestation fell considerably short of its perceived targets.
The most effective project in the history of the province, undoubtedly, has been the BTAP. Notwithstanding, its failure to spur the green economic revolution in the province, the project has been able to achieve the targets set forth. Moreover, the failure of project authorities in mobilizing the private farmers to participate fully in the project has jeopardized the proposed objective of the project to instil a sense of ownership for the project in the community. In projects like this, where community participation is of prime importance, effective participation of the community is the sine qua non for the sustainability of the project. No matter how many trees are planted, as long as the people of the area do not own them, the plantation will always be at risk of human intrusion. Furthermore, despite framing new rules and introducing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Ordinance 2002, a lot remains to be done in terms of making forests part of the larger scheme of things and better environment management. The transition from billion to ten billion was rapid and certainly commendable, however, the aim of this project is not afforestation alone; it is part of the proposed green revolution in the country, thus, measuring its success only in terms of afforestation would be undesirable. It should, therefore, be viewed as drivers of green revolution both in environmental and social sense.
After a thorough analysis of the literature on the subject matter whereby the phenomenon of deforestation along with measures of the government was dissected, the study offers the following recommendations:
- Environment management and ecology should be made part of the substantive law so as to prioritize the subject matter as, presently, these subjects hardly ever get mentioned in the substantive law of the province, let alone being practised.
- Community engagement in every afforestation and environment project as it is the only way through which the onus can be shared, which is absolutely imperative for sustainable environment management.
- Providing incentives to the local community to participate in forest management activities will not only ensure smooth functioning of the projects but also provide economic opportunities to the people of the area.
- After the success of Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP), the Ten-Billion Tree Afforestation Project (10-BTAP) is also expected to meet the expectations of the people; however, doing away with private nurseries for raising of plants is tantamount to rolling back the success of the project.
- The people of the area need to be provided alternative sources of energy, so as to minimize their reliance on forests as their primary source of energy. Incentivizing the use of alternative energy sources, building small dams, subsidizing the appliances of solar energy and extending the facility of natural gas to these areas are some of the ways in which pressure on forests can be eased.
- Since the forests of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are also the tourism hubs, it would not take much for the government to introduce eco-tourism in these areas. This will not only help in providing alternative economic opportunities to the people of the area but also preserve the flora and fauna of the province.
- Involving youth and women in the growth of local industries and promoting micro businesses to anchor tourism. Infrastructure and road access has already improved by leaps and bounds in these areas; all it needs is a small trigger for local businesses to grow, which the government needs to provide through micro financing or other such means. Only this way pressure on forests can be minimized in the area.
- Finally, the forest department needs to take the local leaders on board in important policy decisions in connection to forests as majority of the forests are located in erstwhile princely states that willingly acceded to Pakistan, and the people of the area still feel their rightful ownership to these forests. Thus, these people need to be placated so as to make the management of forests a smooth-sailing affair.
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