A Report on the Causes of Degradation and Means of Rehabilitation of Tagaz (Haloxylon persicum) in Balochistan Pakistan
Introduction to Tagaz (Haloxylon persicum)
Balochistan province, due to its arid and semi-arid climate, supports mainly sparse vegetation. However, the province is rich in vegetation diversities. Among these vegetation types, Haloxylon Persicum (Tagaz) is one important vegetation type, which requires minimum precipitation to grow. Tagaz is a major source of forage for camels and is a good binder for sand dunes stabilization.
Tagaz grows in the saline arid and desert areas of Balochistan. Districts of Chagai, Kharan, Washuk and Noshki are the main areas where Tagaz grows in abundance. It covers more than 60% of the area in the District of Washuk.
Tagaz is a small tree and prefers to grow in sandy areas. The Tagaz has a sort of rugged stem and growing up to 3.0 – 4.0 meters in height. It lacks large foliage type leaves; in fact, its leaves have retrogressed as succulent branches. The leaves of Tagaz are soft and palatable, and digestible by camels. The wood of Tagaz has got high calorific value and is a good source of forage during the winter season and droughts. However, local people have been cutting Tagaz ruthlessly for sale to meet their livelihood requirements because it is the only source of income in the deserts. The wood of Tagaz is also used for making superior quality charcoal.
The Tagaz has been heavily cut for fuelwood both for household use and on a commercial basis. About 100 groups are involved in the ruthless cutting of the Tagaz that bring a large quantity of wood for sale in the towns. Similarly, about 0.100 million camels survive on this natural vegetation resource only in these Districts especially Washuk. Presently, this tree is near to vanishing. However, young plants are present in the areas which indicate the potential for its rehabilitation provided it is saved from cutting and over browsing.
The higher authorities of Balochistan Forests & Wildlife, and Livestock and Dairy Development Balochistan Departments took notice of the situation and a joint meeting of senior officers was held. The matter was discussed in detail and a two-member committee was constituted for preparing Tagaz Conservation Strategy.
Description of Tagaz (Haloxylon persicum)
General Description of Tagaz (Haloxylon persicum)
The Haloxylon persicum belongs to Desert Scrub Vegetation Type and consists of an open stand of Haloxylon persicum with Haloxylon salicornicum, and occasional Calligonum comosum. Haloxylon persicum trees attain a height of 3.0 – 4.0 meter.
Small tree, up to 5 m high, with a stout rugged stem and light grey bark; branches of the preceding year whitish, densely covered with circular cracks; annotinous shoots pale-green, rather rigid, 1-2 mm in diam., usually erect when young, drooping when old; leaves reduced, scale-like, terminating in a straw-coloured cusp, appressed to stem.
Flowers solitary in the axils of obtuse, scale-like bracts borne on very short, twigs; bracteoles round-oval, scarious- margined, obtusely carinate, as long as a flower; perianth segments obtuse, membranous, winged in fruit near the summit; wings suborbicular, or reniform-semiorbicular, usually somewhat twisted, rounded or subcordate at base, with a span of 9-12 mm. Fruit depressed, 2-2.5 mm in diam., scarcely surpassing the winged perianth.
Fl. Per.: October-November.
Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Sinai, S. Iraq, Saudi Arabia; Iran to Oman and UAE, Turcomania, Afghanistan, Pakistan (Balochistan) to China.
In Balochistan, this type is found in flat and sandy valleys of Kharan, Washuk, Chagai and Noshki districts. It is also found in some parts of Panjgur District and could be artificially planted in Pishin and Killa Abdullah Districts.
Tagaz; Haloxylon persicum occurs on sandy to sandy loam loessal and alluvial deposits of Kharan, Washuk, Chagai and Noshki valleys between 2000 feet and 3000 feet altitude. Although, the rainfall in these areas is very low and erratic (less than 5 inches) they receive flash runoff from torrents and hill slopes on both sides. Summers are hot and dry while winters become cold at times. Tagaz is evergreen, and play important role in the environment, and provide habitat for many wildlife including animals and birds. It also checks sand dune movement and provides shelter to people and animals. Tagaz tree retains a lot of moisture around its stem.
- Haloxylon persicum (Tagaz). Tamarix aphylla – Ghaz(in nullhas)
- Calligonum comosum (Phog)
- Haloxylon salicornicum (Traht)
- Pennisetum divisum, Eleusine compressa, Aeluropus macrostachyus
Present Ecological Status
Haloxylon persicum has been heavily cut for fuel and browsed by camels. It sprouts when cuts are made in the stem. The young shoots are readily browsed by camels but do not damage the plant completely unless uprooted. Large areas of Tagaz now have become denuded and shifting sand dunes have been formed.
The Economic Value of Tagaz
- Haloxylon persicum provides very good feed for camels and is excellent fuelwood. It should, therefore, be worthwhile to improve its stocking by artificial sowings and encouragement of natural regeneration through the establishment of seed reserves at potential sites. The nurseries are raised and planted before the winter rainy season. Such plantation requires protection in its early two years with the involvement of local communities against browsing/stampede of animal flocks.
- The leaves of Tagaz are soft and palatable, and digestible for animals especially camels. The seed (Puss am) of this tree are rich in nutrient and fulfil the body requirement of camels. It helps in body structure building and has a positive effect on breeding during the winter season. The flowering and seed formation takes place during winter when there is no other vegetation on the ground.
- Since the availability of forage has become reduced due to the ruthless cutting of Tagaz the number of camels has also reduced considerably. The price of a healthy camel ranges from Rs. 0.100 million to 0.200 million. But due to the non-availability of feed from natural resource the health of camels has to weaken resulting in a decrease in price and the number is also on the ever-decreasing side.
- The recent drought resulted in the heavy mortality of camels due to the absence of Tagaz in the area. Camels survive on this vegetation for round the year, except during spring when grasses are available on the ground.
- Tagaz is good fuelwood and the local population meets their energy requirement from the collection of dried branches of Tagaz.
- Tagaz is evergreen, and play important role in the environment, and provide habitat for many wildlife including animals and birds.
- It also checks sand dune movement and provides shelter to people and animals.
- Tagaz tree retains a lot of moisture around its stem and a plant namely Garmask grows around the stem under the shed of Tagaz. The plant is commonly used for human being indigestion problems as a medicine. This plant is also used for the preparation of leather water container (Mashkiza), preparation of Eizak for making butter and whey.
- The stabilized sand dunes provide natural water reservoirs for flood water that is available for camels and other wildlife as well as for people for more than three months. In addition, the land under flood is cultivated for wheat in winter and for Jawari and production of water Mallon.
Causes of Degradation (Present Status) of Tagaz
- The Tagaz has been heavily cut for fuelwood both for household use and on a commercial basis.
- About 100 groups are involved in the ruthless cutting of the Haloxylon that bring a large quantity of wood for sale in the towns.
- Lack of awareness and interest in the management is also contributing to the degradation of Tagaz. The communities do not share the responsibility to protect this important natural resource.
- The cutting and sale of Tagaz wood are also due to the lack of alternate sources of livelihood in the area.
Conservation Strategy of Tagaz
- Livestock & Dairy Development and Forest & Wildlife Departments will work in close coordination for the conservation and management of Haloxylon in Balochistan.
- Awareness programme for the communities will be initiated through radio and local NGOs by involving the local administration, regarding the importance, benefits, losses, of Haloxylon.
- The Forest department will focus intensively on the rehabilitation, conservation, and regeneration of Haloxylon and its associated species through the involvement of concerned communities.
- Provision of incentives to community activists on a daily paid basis
- Water development by the establishment of bores and its storage development by construction of cemented water tanks on ground level. Solar energy systems will be installed in fields at about 50 points to pump groundwater for animals.
- Law enforcement to ensure the protection of available resources in case someone found cutting Haloxylon for commercial sale and a fine up to Rs. 50000.00 will be imposed per case.
- Herders Association has to be formed and involved right from identification till the completion of activities.
- Existing staff at each district level will be mobilized for data collection and identification of nursery sites.
- Some ration (feed) is required to be provided to ensure the camel conservation and its ruined habitat.
- Animal health and breeding programme is also required to be incorporated by involving highly qualified personnel of the Livestock Department.
- Stock Assistant/Game Watcher are required to be mobilized to ensure watch and ward, and animal health coverage in remote areas.
- Seed reserves will be established to provide an opportunity for seed spread to encourage natural regeneration.
- Conservation Societies will be established and registered in each district to promote the management of Haloxylon. The Forest and Livestock Departments will be ex-officio members of the society at each district level.
- Taj Muhammad M.Sc. Forestry (Pak) and M.S. Range Resources (USA) | Ex-Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Balochistan Forests & Wildlife Department
- Dr. Muhammad Saleh Director Animal Health and Production Extension, Livestock and Dairy Development Department, Balochistan