The human species has depended on forests since ever. They also hinged on forests for an amazing variety of products and services. With rapid economic growth and technological advancement, they have developed and added to the values that forests make available to them. Though, natural endowment of forests is different for different countries. Pakistan, in this case, happens to be a forest poor country, with a small area of 4.478 million ha (5.1 percent) under forests. This amounts to 0.021 ha per person, compared to the world average of 1 ha/person. Yet Pakistan’s demand for forests are high and getting higher: the population is growing at 3 percent per year and increasing industrialization demands more and more construction wood, fuelwood, and water from forested watersheds.
The country has arid and semi-arid climate and primarily a mountainous. Pakistan is diverse in its forestry products including both timber and non-timber forest product. Due to diverse ecosystems, there is a large array of Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs) that play an important role in generating livelihoods for the people living in near proximity of the forests. NTFPs generate far more consistent and long-term revenue than timber. Medicinal, aromatic, and culinary plants, forage and fodder, Kana resin, oils, gums, Maui leaves, honey, silk, mushrooms, wild fruits, chilgoza nuts, pistachio nuts, wild almonds, wild pomegranate, and the Barava plant are just a few of the major products. Regrettably, despite their significance, these products were not adequately recognized in previous forest policies and management regimes. Instead, they were regarded as tiny and insignificant in comparison to the principal outputs of timber and fuelwood.
In terms of medicinal plants, Pakistan has more than 6,000 species of wild herbs and are important for medicine making. Pakistan has listed more than 900 drugs made from medicinal plants. In Pakistan, there are roughly 30 significant herbal medicine production enterprises that use medicinal plants taken from the forests to make Unani and homoeopathic medications on a commercial basis. Furthermore, there are over a hundred unorganized homoeopathic pharmaceutical firms across the country. Herbal medicine production Herbal medications are projected to be worth 6 billion rupees per year.
Overall, the area of natural forests has decreased. Though, the area allocated for forest use and rangelands, as on the books of the provincial forest departments, has not decreased, rather it has registered a small increase in certain provinces. This area is expected to remain static. So, the overall forest cover in Pakistan inclusive of irrigated forest plantations has increased and this trend is likely to continue. Moreover, forest biodiversity, especially in the case of species of wild animals and their habitats, has suffered an irreversible loss of great magnitude. The forests and rangelands could not be managed sustainably due to overexploitation and lack of regeneration. Currently, the management approach is of extraction of resources with almost no focus on production. Forests and rangelands face grave management issues due to insufficient technical Competencies and inadequate financial resources. The sharp increase in the prices of livestock ProduCts offers an incentive for raising more livestock. This would mean increased pressure of livest on forests and rangelands, for grazing.
Pakist timber, paper pulp, paper and certain other wood products to meet the gap in supply and demand. This must continue to avoid further unsustainable forest management. This is why there is also a dire need to revisit tariff policy on wood-related products. Weak institutional framework, non-compliance or weak enforcement of laws, lack of an enabling environment for the forest staff and other stakeholders including communities and the private sector are also contributing to the worsening scenario. Education and research in forests, rangelands, and biodiversity is not at an optimum level; both in content and quality. Participation of local communities and other stakeholders in forestry, rangeland management and biodiversity conservation is at an initial stage and requires serious efforts and institutionalization in policies and laws for success. Likewise, NTFPs have not received due attention so far. Their importance is going to be enhanced in the future, which would require focused attention on sustainable harvesting, value addition and marketing for ensuring long-term benefits to the local communities. Forest service functions have not received any recognition and appreciation solar, but the time is just ripe to take the concept forward.
Furthermore, the use of alternatives for timber, firewood and other forest products is becoming vital in Pakistan to reduce pressure on forest and rangeland resources but the current number and quantities of alternatives in use is limited. This is likely to increase gradually but conscious efforts and support may promote their use manifold and quickly. Issues external to the forestry sector are important but are complex and require enhanced attention of forest policymakers, planners and managers in Pakistan; discussions have started and inter-sectoral interaction is expected to grow in the future.
In a crux, the forestry sector is confronted with many challenges including deforestation; massive degradation of forests, watersheds and rangelands; decline in their productivity; loss of biodiversity; soil erosion and desertification; reduction in environmental and recreational values; The main factor responsible for this situation is the heavy dependence of the ever-increasing population, in Particular the rural population, on forests for biomass energy and subsistence. The underlying causes for this situation are: rapid growth in human and livestock populations; heavy dependence of local communities on forest and other natural resources’ conversion and degradation of forests into unsustainable forms of land use; imbalance in supply and demand of timber and other wood Products, in particular for household energy; reduced environmental flows in rivers, ambiguous, complex and retrogressive land tenure systems; prolonged droughts, forest fires, floods, earthquakes, Pests and diseases and climate change; lack of participation among and economic incentives for communities; transfer of forest lands for non-forestry purposes and forest land encroachment; shortage and inefficient use of irrigation water; weak institutions and weak enforcement or noncompliance with policies and laws; absence of intra and inter-sectoral coordination; dearth of technology, unsustainable alternatives for wood and efficient wood use practices and general lack of awareness on benefits nable development; deficiency of of forests beyond wood and the forestry or, as products and services. Nevertheless, until the aforementioned issues are addressed, the forestry sector,as well as its products and services will remain an underutilized potential of pakistan.