Scientific Forest Management : Ganesh Paudel
Resource is defined as a source or supply from which benefit is produced. It includes materials, energy, services, staff, knowledge or other assets that are transformed to produce some kind of benefit. To make a country prosperous, natural resources play an important role. We always get to hear that Nepal is very rich in natural resources. But the resources must produce some benefit otherwise they cannot be considered a resource.
Due to their wide occurrence and diversity, forests are considered to be an important natural resource of Nepal. About 40 per cent of the total area of Nepal is covered by forests and, therefore, they should be contributing considerably to the national economy. However, till now we have been able to take very little benefit as compared to its potentiality. To generate maximum benefit from the resource, its management is a must. If we had been managing the forests of Nepal well, we would have been able to take optimum benefit. Scientific forest management is the only means of increasing income from the forests.
If we look into Nepal's history of forest management, we do not find any remarkable intervention of scientific forest management. The concept of maximum exploitation was emphasised over the decades. In 1927, the East India Company imported high quantities of timber from Nepal. The condition of the forests was not taken into consideration while extracting timber from the forests. Instead good quality timber was extracted without employing scientific management techniques.
Planned development began in Nepal with the launch of its First Development Plan in 1956. Forestry in the first plan was concerned only with timber collection, and as a result, the Timber Corporation of Nepal (TCN) was established during this period. TCN has been continuing its work as a collector and seller of forest products only, and it has not focused on producing forest products by introducing scientific forest management. The National Forestry Plan, 1976 covered several issues related to forests, but it also could not introduce the concept of scientific forest management.
The Master Plan for the Forestry Sector 1989 was a perspective plan in Nepal's forestry sector spanning 25 years. It set six primary programmes and other supportive programmes and carried them out. From the scientific management point of view, it was also incapable of introducing scientific forest management in Nepal. The Forest Act, 1993 and Regulation, 1995 made provisions for preparing the District Forest Management Plan for managing the forest resources of the districts. Likewise the Community Forests were obliged to prepare the Community Forestry Operational Plan.
Nepal has seen success in protecting its forest resources by involving people in forest management, especially in the mid-hills. But apart from protecting the forests, there has been no intervention of scientific forest management in community forestry. On the other hand, there are large patches of forests in the terai whose ecological condition has deteriorated continuously in the absence of scientific forest management. We are importing timber from foreign countries by allowing our timber to go to waste.
Our forests have the capacity to fulfill the internal demand for wood, but we are unable to manage and utilise them. Low availability of forest resources is not the problem, the problem lies with their unscientific management. Recently, scientific forest management was started in the community forests of Nepal. In its initial phase, it faced several challenges, yet to some extent, foresters were successful in initiating the programme. While starting the forestry programme, the greater challenge remained in persuading the public and politicians that it was not wrong to fell a green tree if this was based on the principle of scientific forest management.
The scientific forest management movement is picking up momentum, and it is the mostly discussed issue at forums. Foresters want to introduce this programme in every district. But the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection directed the government to stop this programme after visiting only one district. This move of the committee was appalling. It should have directed the government to stop the programme only in those districts where there is suspicion of over exploitation and corruption. This directive might have been the right step to stop corruption, but it discouraged those foresters who are carrying out their task faithfully. Due to pressure from conservationists, forest technicians, collaborative forest users and Nepal Timber Entrepreneurs Association, the committee, however, took back its previous stance and directed the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation to implement the programme effectively.
We can protect the forests as a whole, not the individual tree forever because it has its own lifespan. In the Terai there are large trees with no regeneration on the ground. Regeneration in these areas needs to be encouraged by gradually opening the shade through application of scientific forest management.
Community forest user groups have been playing a vital role in turning denuded hills into green forests. Now protection alone is not enough if we want to take more benefit from the forest. The time has come for the forest technicians to show their technical capability by introducing scientific management in these forests. This is the foremost task for showing that the forests are really the valuable natural resources of Nepal.
(Paudel is an officer, Parbat District Forest Office; email@example.com)