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By Muhammad Anwar Kakar
Range Forest Officer Killa Saifullah | Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department
Introduction to Killa Saifullah
Killa Saifullah (قلعہ سیف اللہ) (lit. “fort of Saifullah”) is a district in northwestern Balochistan province, Pakistan. It was established as a district in 1988 comprising two former administrative units of Zhob District: the Upper Zhob Sub-division and the sub-tehsil of Badinai, previously named Kashatoo and part of the subdistrict of Kakar Khurasan.
Killa Saifullah is about 135 km south of the provincial capital Quetta. Neighbouring districts are Zhob, Loralai and Pishin.
Forests of Killa Saifullah
Forests play an important role in the maintenance of environmental balance. It is a well established fact that life on earth is the function of a number of direct, indirect, tangible and intangible naturally active forestry factors; these may include emission of life-sustaining Oxygen and absorption of poisonous Carbon-Di-Oxide.
Forests are the main source of food, timber, firewood, shelter and a variety of medicinal herbs and also serve as baseline for food-web, thereby sustain life on earth.
We need to know forests are instrumental in the rehabilitation and development of rangelands, water management, wildlife management and soil conservation. In view of their multitasking function, we should protect and rehabilitate forests for our own existence.
Killa Saifullah supports coniferous and scrub forests. Coniferous forests occur at 1,500 to 3,500 meters, mainly in Torghar with chilghoza and kail as the dominant species. Scrub forests are found at 500 to 1,500 meters with wild olive, ash and willow being the key species. Besides forest areas, trees can be found along streams and nullahs in remote hilly areas of the district.
The representative forest type in the area is Balochistan Dry Temperate Scrub (Steppe). Historically it was dry temperate climax formation of juniper and wild pistachio. As a remnant, few isolated patches of wild pistachio are still surviving; it is made possible only through communal distribution of rights over land and allied resources.
Overall the climax formation reduced to scrub condition due to grazing and fuel wood pressure. Presently, it is has turned to an open cover dominated by a fair amount of grasses and herbs. Major tree species are Shina (Pistacia khinjjak), Wild Ash (Fraxinus xanthoxyloides) and Obusht (Juniperus excelsa polycarpos). In the valleys Ghaz (Tamarix spp) is found in streambeds.
The major tree species found in the district are Obusht (Juniperus excelsa polycarpos), Wild Ash (Fraxinus xanthoxyloides) and Shina (Pistacia khinjjak), which occupy favorable sites.
The main shrubs are Janglee Badaam/Wild Almond (Prunus eberne), Sparae (Cotoneaster spp.), Tharkha (Artemisia maritime), Crataegus spp., Kala Zira (Carum bulbocastanum), Oman (Ephedra nebrodensis and Ephedra intermedia), Makhi (Caragana ambigua), Khakshir (Sisymbrium sophia), Zralg (Berberis lyceum), and Surae (Rosa lacerans).
The ground cover is constituted mainly of (Stipa himalacia), (Dichanthium annulatum), (Chrysopogon aucheri) and (Cymbopogon spp).
Vegetation zones of the district consist mainly of the following categories:
|S.No.||Vegetation Zone||Brief description|
|1.||Uphill steep rocky cliffs||Juniperus Excelsa polycarpos is the predominantly climax Species associated with Pistacia khinjjak, Ephedra nebrodensis, Ephedra intermedia and Fraxinus xanthoxyloides.|
|2.||Foot hills||It comprises mostly of the fertile deep soil plateaus like Toba Kakari and Kakar Khurasan range. It provides summer grazing land for both the local and nomadic graziers. It is dominated by a variety of shrubs like Artimesia meritima (Tharkha), Prunus ebernea (Wild almond), Caragana ambigua (Makhi), Berberis lyceum (Zralg) and Sophora grifithii (Ghuzaira) associated with herbs and grasses.|
|3.||Piedmont plains||Mostly modified by the local community for agriculture and other land uses. It consists of more or less flat to undulating plains. The wasteland contains mostly Artimesia meritima (Tharkha), Haloxylon grifithii with sporadic mixture of edible seasonal forage plants; thus supporting thousands of animals, both local and nomadic ones.|
|4.||Dry stream beds||Commonly found in the entire district where Tamarix Spp. is commonly seen.|
|S. No.||Name of Forest||Area (Hectares)||Status|
|1.||Tarawal||4144||Not yet Hand over to the Department|
|3.||Kand||4792||Not yet Hand over to the Department|
|4.||Nasai||6993||Not yet Hand over to the Department|
Commercial Forestry (Plantations)
Tree species planted for Amenity and Farm forestry purpose comes under this category; mostly planted along water channels, water storage ponds, around Farmlands and household compounds.
The common species are Sinjit (Elaeagnus angustifolia), Sufeda (Poplus spp.), Toot/Mulberry (Morus alba), Quetta pine or Persian pine (Pinus halepensis), Saru (Cupressus sempervirens), Salix spp.
Under a provincial Government development project an area of about 400 acres at Haji Nasarudin Aghbargai, Killa Saifullah Tehsil and Killi Dost Mohammad, Muslim bagh Tehsil has been treated with water harvesting techniques whereby species like Salt bush, Wild Almond and Tamarix etc are maintained.
Moreover a seed lot for natural plants was developed over 40 acres at Khatuka State Forest.
The Rangeland type in the district is classified as Central Balochistan Ranges. It has species like: Gung (Vitex agnus-castus), Ghureza (Sophora lopcuroides), Tharkha (Artemisia maritime), Zawal (Achillea santolina), Zoz (Alhagi camalorum), Spanda (Peganum harmala), Washta (Stipa pennata), Weezh (Pennisetum orientale), Sargarai (Cymbopogon jawarancusa), Margha (Pennisetum annulatum) etc.
The productivity is fair with average productive capacity of 160 kg /ha. The rangelands seem degraded due to overgrazing and fuel wood collection, as is evident from presence of less palatable and poisonous plants like Ghuzera (Sophora grifithii). The degradation is multiplied by the traditional nomadic migrants.
Most of the rangelands in the district belong to communities living around them. Due to communal ownership, usually these are accessible to all members of the community and also to nomads passing through the area on their traditional routes of migration to new areas.
On the management side, no one assumes the responsibility for undertaking any activity aimed either at restoration of depleted areas or for improvement to increase the forage production and other tangible and intangible benefits.
There is no limit on the number, type, season and period/duration of grazing. This free access to range resource by everyone and absence of responsibility on management side has led to what could be termed as the “Tragedy of Commons”, which has resulted in overgrazing and uprooting of bushes/shrubs from rangelands beyond their carrying capacities. As a consequence, most of the rangelands in the district are following the path of degradation.
However, this is not a case of common practice in the entire district. In areas, where livestock rearing is one of the sources of livelihoods, rangelands are seen as important resource and there is also a system in place for their management.
This system is mostly limited to the grazing management, whereby grazing on the rangelands is regulated through the traditional system of declaring rangelands open and close for grazing. Locally, this system is called as “Pargore” in Pashto, whereby rangelands in one growing season, i.e. spring or monsoon, are declared close for grazing and at the onset of next growing season it is declared as open for the herding.
However, there is no limit on the number of grazing animals and period (duration) of grazing. Similarly, range readiness and other facilities necessary for grazing are also not taken into account.
Timber is not produced on commercial basis. Wood from Juniper and its associated trees is utilized for fuel wood, construction of hutment and hedges around Agricultural lands in areas near to the forests.
Non-timber Forest Produce
Resident communities also make use of some of the Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), mostly medicinal plants, for household consumption and sometimes also for sale in the local market. The important species are:
- Juniper (Juniperus excelsa polycarpos)
- Artemisia (Artemisia meritima)
- Ephedra (Ephedra nebrodensis)
- Ephedra (Ephedra intermedia)
- Morae /Ajwain (Thymus surphyllum)
- Zralg (Berberis lycium)
- Surai (Rosa beggeriana)
- Shinshobae (Perowskia abrotanoides)
- Sursanda (Hymenocrater sessilifolius)
- Kala Zira (Carum bulbocastanum)
- Spandae (Paganum hermala)
- Valanae (Mentha sylvestris)
- Walaghunai (Dephne oleoides)
- Gung (Vitex agnus-castus)
It is surprising that, though Killa Saifullah district is one of the most important horticultural areas of Balochistan, bee-keeping is not considered an economic activity.
In the district wood obtained from the forests is mainly used for fuel purposes, because other sources of fuel are either not available or, if available, are too expensive. There is no data available about the quantity of exploited wood.
Historically, nomads have been involved in the exploitation of wood. In the recent past, refugees from Afghanistan have exploited this resource mercilessly.
Structure and Functions of the Forest and Wildlife Department
Functions of the Balochistan Forests and Wildlife Department (BFWD) in the district are listed as under:
- Forest Conservation and management
- Rangeland development
- Wildlife Conservation and protected areas management
- Watershed Management.
- Soil Conservation and Desertification control
Major Forestry Issues
These are the major forestry orientated issues:
- Lack of awareness and aptitude towards conservation of forests and rangelands.
- Forest reserve has depleted due to non-availability of cheap / alternate sources of fuel energy other then wood.
- Female involvement in the forest activities is rare and limited to some jobs like collecting herbs, bushes and shrubs. Sometimes they also collect fuel wood.
- The environmental and ecological balance is impaired due to soil erosion, depletion of range land and population pressure.
- The institutional capacity of Forestry Department needs restructuring. Management needs vigor, so that effective control on the degradation of overall environments will be possible.
- For immediate financial gains unplanned agriculture activities have subsided the natural vegetation.
- Wildlife being hunted for fun and food; some out of necessity for status and prestige.
- Historically the catchment areas of the valleys were covered by Shina Forests (Pistacia khinjjak), which played an important role in sustenance of communities living in proximity. But due to relentless grazing and fuel wood pressure, in absence of fodder and energy alternatives, the once good forest cover reduced to an open canopy with isolated stands /trees. The process of deforestation not only reduced the vegetative cover but it also exposed the soil to erosive processes culminating into less recharge and ultimately affecting supply of ground and perennial water in the downstream valleys. In this context, reforestation and improvement of Shina Forests is must to improve the productive potential of downstream valley and supporting sustenance of the resident communities.
- UNICEF District Profile Killa Saifullah
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NJMH is working as Deputy Conservator of Forests in Balochistan Forest & Wildlife Department (BFWD). He is the CEO of Tech Urdu (techurdu.net) Forestrypedia (forestrypedia.com), Majestic Pakistan (majesticpakistan.pk), All Pak Notifications (allpaknotifications.com), Essayspedia, etc & their YouTube Channels). He is an Environmentalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Developer & Vlogger.