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Published Date: Jun 27, 2011

SDPI PRESS RELEASE (27 JUNE 2011)

Provision of livelihood opportunities, alternate energy sources and removal of ban on harvesting of trees necessary for sustainable forest management, said by participants of “A Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Forest Management “ organized by Sustanable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. They also demanded revision of forest laws addressing landownership and judicious distribution of royalty in forest communities.

Dr Babar Shahbaz, Professor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Shakeel Ahmed Ramay, Senior Research Associate, Climate Change Study Centre, SDPI, Kanwar Muhammad Javed Iqbal, Coordinator, PCI, SDPI,  Talimand Khan, PAMS Coordinator, SDPI, Shah Wazir Khan, Deputy Chief Conservator Forest, KPK, Riaz Muhammad, Sarhad Awami Forest Itehad (SAFI), Ameer Muhammad, Sarhad Awami Forest Itehad (SAFI) and Tahira Abdullah, renowed social activist spoke at the event.

Dr. Shahbaz expressed that sustainable forest governance is only possible if it is rooted from the collective local action. He expressed that there is no easy way to overcome the multidimensional problems involved in forest management as managing natural resource conflict is an integral part of natural resource governance. He urged that a mediated policy dialogue using a neutral facilitator is a good way to bring the actors in a natural resource conflict together.Dialogue mediated by neutral facilitators helps build and strengthen trust, enhance communication, promote engagement, and open attitudes, he added.

Talimand Khan shared SDPI’s findings and recommendation based upon district forest assembly and people roundtables held in Hazara and Malakand devision of KPK,  with local stakeholders regarding forest governance issues. He criticized existing forest management policy that puts responsibility to protect forest on communities without imparting any authority to them. Talimand lamented that these laws are arbitrary, inhumane and gives powers of police to forest officials who can even fire and shoot anybody they think suspicious. He urged removal of ban on harvesting as it has backfired and instead of slowing down deforestation, has multiplied manifold.

He stressed upon integrated land use planning and coordination among stakeholders for sustainable forest management and put forth many recommendations such as review of Joint Forest Management Committees’ system (JFMCs), transparent disbursement of royalty, implementation of forests reform agenda, Resolution of ownership issues, shift to fruit orchards in wastelands, innovative approaches to correspond to climate change and incentives reforestation compatible with climate change.

Shakeel Ahmad Ramay said Pakistan is vulnerable to various negative implications of climate change such as droughts, rise in sea level, melting of glaciers and changing weather patterns.  He said that experts have predicted that these affects would adversely affect agricultural production and may decrease it upto 30% in next 20 years. He said that this depleting water resources and productivity scenario in contrast with enormous increase in population presents a very gloomy picture. He cited recent SDPI study which shows 48.7% food insecurity in Pakistan and urged upon taking immediate measures to cope with situation.

Kanwar Iqbal explained background of REDD+ mechanism, carbon credits generated by projects and current developments on national level in Pakistan. He informed that though it’s a bit late, but Pakistan has formally entered in UNREDD Programme. He also discussed challenges aroused after devolution of Environment Ministry, as the REDD+ demands immediate formation of national level policies. Kanwar presented a post 18th amendment model for that includes development of national level REDD+ strategy / action plan with establishment of provincial REDD+ Cell, addressing the need for both compliance and voluntary market.

Renowed Activist Tahira Abdullah showed concerns over rapidly diminishing forest cover in Pakistan which has been reduced to 2.5 % of total area of Pakistan. She said that use of wood as fuel and its commercial use should be discouraged by imposing taxes. She also highlighted the need of rigorous campaign for strict enforcement of policies to protect forests and promote sustainable forest management policies.

Forest community representatives Riaz Muhammad Khan and Amir Muhammad Khan said that timber mafia in compliance with forest officials, is behind massive deforestation and basic hindrance in sustainable forest management. They were of the view that both not only sabotage joint forest management committees (JFM’s), but are also responsible for all the hardships being faced by forest communities. They vowed for removing ban on harvesting of trees, justified provision of royalty and livelihood to the people.