Sindh’s forest management policy
The measure by the Sindh government to reclaim its lost forests with the introduction of a new forest policy is a welcome step towards addressing growing global warming and local needs. The province has claimed 600,000 acres, all meant for forests, from encroachers in an operation stemming from the Supreme Court’s orders. In the coming days, 200,000 more acres will be added to forest areas. The total forest area in Sindh is 888,206 acres, and in the recent operation, 218,000 acres were retrieved from encroachers, while 382,000 acres are already with Sindh forests. Now, the proposed Sindh Sustainable Forest Management Policy is at the final stages of approval which will ensure forest cover there with the active collaboration of local communities. As per the salient features of the policy, local community’s participation in afforestation as well as protection of existing forest stock and future projects in kacha areas will bring about a green change.
Pakistan has been losing its forest cover since its inception, thanks to successive governments’ disregard for saving trees from the timber mafia and due to lack of alternative fuels. Moreover, little of allocation of funds for forestry also played a part. The major shift to plantation and the need for afforestation was first witnessed by the Sindh government in 2011 when it patronised local communities in coastal areas to plant mangroves. The game changing policy, however, was the billion tree campaign by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2013 to 2018, and it made afforestation a signature point of all mainstream parties in the election of 2018. But Sindh is leading the green path again with the introducing the sustainable forest policy. In other provinces, a major part of the afforestation is being done with public funds, which lacks local communities’ collaboration. The Sindh policy also estimates that Rs18 billion would be spent on rehabilitation of forest cover in three phases in as many years.
The policy also addresses the need to plant local, indigenous trees and gradually cut out the invasive, anti-environment species. A scientific inventory of forests in Sindh was conducted in 1994 under which 21 per cent of the riverine forests and 17 per cent of irrigated plantations were under the cover of productive/commercial tree species while the remaining areas were under non-commercial woody vegetation.
Hopefully, the new policy, if approved and implemented, will address demographic and hydrological factors, local market demands and alternatives to forest products.
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