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Making a case for forest investments in Pakistan

A new report Forests for Green Pakistan highlights that while the forest cover in Pakistan is low, covering just 5.1 percent of the total land area, the contribution of forests to Pakistan's national economy and to the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities is significant. 
Forests benefit the economy and forest-dependent communities in several ways. For example, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 2009), 68 percent of the country's population depends on firewood as a major source of household energy and about 100,000 people are involved in the fuelwood trade, generating about PKR 11.3 billion ($113 million) annually. In addition, more than 500,000 workers are employed by forest industries and about 80 percent of the people living in rural areas depend on non-timber forest products to supplement their incomes. However, a lack of data on forest resources, management practices, and uses impedes the sector from articulating the importance of investing in forests among competing development priorities.
Based on collected evidence, low forest investments and unsustainable forest management practices have caused steady loss and degradation of Pakistan’s forests over recent decades. Deforestation in natural forests is taking place at the rate of 0.75 percent, or 27,000 ha per year (FAO 2009). Without concrete data to showcase the forest sector’s social, economic and ecological value, the Government of Pakistan, at both the national and provincial levels, has not prioritized the sector and only made limited investments in the sector. In fact, forests normally receive less than one percent of provincial developmental budgets. 
To reverse the trend of deforestation and forest degradation, institutional arrangements and policy frameworks at both the federal and provincial levels need to be updated to promote sustainable forest management practices. The recent approval of the 2015 National Forest Policy and the launching of the ambitious Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Program ($150 million) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Green Pakistan Program ($36 million) show the beginning of policy shifts that support the sector.  
To transform the sector towards a sustainable future, the report calls for donor support on policy reforms, capacity building and sustainable financing. Given the institutional and regulatory complexity of forest management issues in Pakistan, initial engagements should focus on relatively simpler tasks and gradually move to more challenging tasks. In doing so, long-term forest investments will help Pakistan harness the huge potential of forest contributions to resilient ecosystems, the rural livelihood, the national economy, and the global environment.
“Forests of Pakistan are in crisis now. This report aims to elevate the issue and proposes actions to policy makers and development partners. It aligns well with the new Pakistani Government’s tree planting efforts, but calls for reform actions that can deliver and safeguard sustainable forest management practices in the long run,” explained Mr. Jiang Ru, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank. “It is not an easy task and more advocacy will be needed. The World Bank will continue exploring opportunities with other development partners to advance this agenda in Pakistan.” 
Preparation of this report was supported by the Program on Forests (PROFOR), a multi-donor partnership housed at the World Bank aimed at generating innovative, cutting-edge knowledge and tools to advance sustainable management of forest resources for poverty reduction, economic growth, climate mitigation and adaptation, and conservation benefits.

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Last Updated : 10-23-2019