Legal Context of Forests and Forest management
Forest management systems in Pakistan being applied in different provinces vary depending on the forest classification and rights/ ownership/ tenure regimes in the respective provinces. The main legal categories of forests include Reserved, Protected, Unclassed, Resumed, Guzara and Communal forests. Forest types based on vegetative and ecological parameters include coniferous, scrub, riverine, coastal, and irrigated forests.
The first Forest Act in sub-continent was passed in 1865 and subsequently rules were framed under this Act for protection of forest in 1872. Under the amended Regulation, the tree bearing lands of Hazara were divided into two categories: The Government Reserved Forests and the public wastelands, later called the ‘guzara’ forests. The Reserved Forests were handed over to the Forest Department for management and the guzara forests were set aside to meet the domestic requirements of the local people. The Government retained the right to conserve and manage them and charged a share on their sale proceeds known as the ‘seigniorage fee’. The later decades of the 19th century (1871-1900) were marked by the passing of forest legislation, reservation of forests, forest settlement, demarcation, survey, and protection (GM Khattak, 1976).
The ‘Indian Forest Act, 1927’, was under implementation when Pakistan and India were created as two sovereign independent countries in 1947. The same Act was adopted by Pakistan with the changed name of Pakistan Forest Act 1927. The Act contains provisions for declaration and protection of forests. This law applies to the state-owned reserved forests, protected forests, communal forests, and privately-owned lands managed by the Forest Departments.
The subject of forestry falls in the provincial domain. The provincial Governments and Governments of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) are responsible to manage forest resources in their respective jurisdiction under different tenurial and legal and customary concessional rights (see also box 1). The state-owned forests in Punjab, Sindh, and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) are managed under the Forest Act 1927; whereas in
Balochistan both the Forest Regulation 1890 (amended in 1974) and the Forest Act 1927 are applicable simultaneously, and in GB forestry resources are managed under GB Forest Act in the KP province the Forest Ordinance 2002 is in practice. The Government of AJK manages its forestry resources under the AJK Forest Regulation 1930 (Amendment) Act 2017.
The functions of the Federal Government regarding forests are given in the Rules of Business the Office of the Inspector General of Forests (OIGF) in the capacity of technical wing of the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) is mandated to perform functions of 1) formulation of national policy, plans, strategies and programmes regarding ecology, forestry, wildlife, biodiversity and desertification, and 2) coordination, monitoring, and implementation of environmental agreements with other countries, international agencies, and forums.
The current forest laws and regulations at the sub national level (Table 1) are mostly deficient and have yet to incorporate modern management requirements for changing scenarios in the forestry sector. These changes may include mainstreaming community participation, benefit sharing with forest-dependent communities, biodiversity conservation, payment for ecosystem services, climate change adaptation, REDD+, landscape and ecosystem-based management and buffer zone management around protected areas.