The forestry resources of Sindh are classified in four different categories viz. Riverine Forests, Irrigated Plantations, Protected Forests and Mangrove Forests. The Riverine Forests of Sindh are confined to riverine tract of Indus within the protective embankments on both sides of the river. They are stretched from Northeast of the province to South near Arabian Sea where Indus falls in the sea. Irrigated Plantations are the main features of manmade plantations raised on canal irrigation system of river Indus. These plantations were raised mainly to meet the ever increasing demand of wood and wood products in the country in general and the province in particular. The grazing fields and unclassified wastelands of the province were declared as Protected Forests where the rights of the people are allowed more than that of reserved forests. The Indus delta mangroves, also categorized as protected forests, have great environmental value as they protect the coastal population from sea intrusion and serve as shield against cyclones which hit the coasts of Sindh occasionally.
Sindh province, having a population of about 55.24 million, occupies land area of 14.091 million ha. (34.81 million acres). Out of above, an area of 1.125 million ha. (2.782 million acres) is under the control of Sindh Forest Department, which is 8% of the total area of the province. However, out of aforementioned total area, riverine forests and irrigated plantations which are categorized as productive forests cover only 2.29% area, clearly indicating that the province is deficient in forestry resources. The remaining area under the control of Sindh Forest Department (SFD) consists of mangrove forests and rangelands, which are classified as protective forests. The details of both productive and protective categories of forests are given as follows:
So far the energy requirements of the province are concerned, the existing wood energy requirements are estimated to be 6.4 million m3 against sustained supply of 1.68 million m3, and thus there is a generating gap of 4.72 million m3 between wood energy supply and demand.
This vital renewable resource of forestry, which provides goods and services to all members of society besides protecting environment, ought to be given serious consideration in the economic field even though the tangible and intangible benefits require a relatively longer time to produce an impact.
Forestry in Sindh was well organized, productive and rewarding until the excessive demands of the Second World War resulted in overexploitation of Sindh forests. Owing to its geographical location, Sindh Forests had to bear the great burden of providing wood and wood products to the troops in the Middle East. The post-war reconstruction had scarcely started, when the country became independent. Consequently the forests had to bear even greater pressure of demand while the supplies from other parts of the subcontinent became totally cut off.
The colonial system of administration and forest management was no longer suitable in an independent country. The revenue-yielding aspect remained the main criterion of forest management resulting in further exploitation of the resources without matching investment vital for renewable resource development. Just as the harvesting of agricultural crops needs investment for further cultivation of next crops so do the tree crops when felled require to be replaced to maintain high level of productivity.
SINDH FORESTRY AT A GLANCE
Forests of Sindh are rather unique because of low rainfall and subtropical location. The inundation of the river Indus as an annual recurring phenomenon was the only source for providing irrigation to the forests of Sindh as most of the productive forests are located in the protective embankments of river Indus. After the construction of the barrages and dams, this source of water supplies considerably diminished impoverishing the riverine forests.
Since Karachi was the only port, it had to be protected from siltation. The most effective natural protection available is from the mangrove forests on the coastal belt, which had received very little attention and investment of public sector. Even though the post-independence forestry service brought these valuable forests under its management, very little has been done in the past to obtain maximum benefits from this unique ecological complex. However, lots of efforts have been taken by Sindh Forest Department in the last more than two decades to protect and rehabilitate this invaluable gift of the nature. Intensive plantation activities carried out inside Indus delta mangroves through various development schemes resulted in considerable increase in mangrove cover.
Range management is yet another discipline, which was not cared for in the colonial times but thoughtfully started by SFD so as to properly manage vast tracts of pasture lands to produce better cattle and dairy products. In the past, efforts have not resulted in spectacular success basically owing to indifference of successive administrations to invest in projects that necessarily need longer gestation period. This valuable resource is being given proper attention through two Range Management Divisions of Sindh Forest Department. Efforts are being taken to scientifically mange the vast rangelands of the province and lot has to be done to bring the rangelands at par with acceptable international standards.
The department's primary goal is directed towards increasing tree cover of the province, which means reforestation of all areas that are still un-stocked particularly state lands. Another significant objective of the department is conservation and development of coastal mangrove forests, which will have a far reaching effect on fishing industry as well as production of much needed fodder and fuel besides protection of environment, the fragile ecosystem and port.
FARM FORESTRY IN FOCUS
To promote sustainable development of forestry resources and to increase tree cover of the province, yet another important aim of the department is promotion of forestry among the farming community through incentives so as to improve their own economic lot in addition to bridging the gap between supply and demand. This goal can be achieved through agroforestry practices. The department is using genetically superior seedlings under agroforestry on farmlands to increase productivity. In fact agroforestry should become a national mandate and a people's movement, as it is most economical, sustainable and stable alternative for ensuring ecological security of the country. Annually SFD is distributing millions of saplings among the farmers at subsidized rates. The farmers have adopted this practice as an income generation activity. A great emphasis has been given to farm forestry which resulted in a considerable enhancement in tree cover of the province and it is expected that in future the tree cover outside state forests will increase considerably with full technical and material support to the progressive farmers from the department.
Furthermore, the planting of canal banks and roadsides would be necessary for amenity purposes besides environmental protection. An overall broad based plan of SFD is to arrest degradation of environment and biodiversity that would necessitate conservation of wildlife habitat.
The tasks briefly outlined above may appear stupendous yet the fact remains that the challenge has to be faced and must be tackled. The department has the capacity and ability to accomplish the task. Nothing could, however, be achieved unless the Government asserts its will and determination to take up forestry with a total commitment for its development.