Forests are far and most government’s property in Pakistan. Based on legal classification, forests are divided between two major categories viz. public forests (state-owned) and private forests (non-state). Reserve Forests and Protected Forests are the main categories of public forests, while Guzara Forests constitutes the main part of private forests. These legal forests categories differ in terms of the rights granted to the local people. Following is a brief account of different legal classes of forests.
Source: Pakistan (2005) [State of Environment Report]
Public Forests come under the jurisdiction of provincial forest departments that manage and control these forests. The major legal classes are Reserved Forests, Protected Forests, and State Forests. Reserve Forests occur in the Provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These forests are almost free of private rights. The rights granted as concessions, generally include rights to passage, to water, to grazing and fuel-wood collection. Protected Forests exists in all provinces of Pakistan (except Azad Kashmir). Although under the ownership of government, they entertain a lot of rights of local residents. These include, in addition to the rights mentioned above, rights to timber for non-commercial usage, lopping trees for fuel-wood, and fodder. The important feature of these rights is that they are essentially meant to satisfy non-commercial needs. State Forests exist in Balochistan and Azad Kashmir. They are free of private rights but concessions for passage, grazing, water and fuel-wood collection etc. are granted which can be revoked at any time by the government. Resumed Forests and Un-classed Forests are other categories of public forests. Whereas Reserve Forests had been under government control for almost hundred and fifty years, Protected Forests were brought under government jurisdiction in late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Guzara Forests are held either individually (by families), or jointly (by communities). However, they have always been managed by the government except for a short period of time (1981-1992) when these forests were managed by forest cooperative societies. For this reason, it is better to regard them as regulated commons”. (Azhar 1993).
Categories of Forests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the reserved forests are in Abottabad, Saran, Agror, Galiyat, Kaghan, Mansehra and Haripur amd covers an area of 96754 hectares. Protected Forests are located in Swat, Dir and Chitral. 60-80% rights in the royalty are with the locals. They cover an area of 512,152 hectares. Guzara Forests also known as wastelands are derived from Guzaara Rules 1950. They cover an area of 549,677 hectares.
In Azad Jammu & Kashmir demarcated forests area are over 5660 square km which makes 42.5% of the total land area of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Forests consist of Sub Tropical Pine. Deaodar, Spruce and blue pines are the main species. Government imposed eight year ban on commercial cutting of green trees which is effective from 2001.
Role of the Forest Department
The forests departments are the custodian of the forests and they are on one hand responsible for bringing increased area under forests and on the other hand one of their major responsibility is to safeguard the forests from being illegally cut by anyone. They have been entrusted with huge responsibilities and that’s why they are also invested with huge powers to discharge their duties without any fear.
Following legal framework is available for strict implementation of laws:
Forest Act 1927 (Formerly Indian Forest Act 1927 adopted in Pakistan after 1947), NWFP Forest Ordinance 2002, Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, Timber Transit Rules, 1927, Guzara Regulations in Guzara Forests 1935/1956, Joint Forest Management (JFM) Rules 2002 and Pakistan Penal Code 1860.
DEMAND OF TIMBER
As against the timber production of 0.501 million cubic meters the total demand of timber in Pakistan is estimated around 2.3 million cubic meters. Because of this increasing demand there is lot of pressure on timber producing forests of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu & Kashmir and due to that the timber Mafia is involved in illegal cutting of the forests to gain high monetary benefits.