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Countries in South Asia are increasingly committed to the improved management of the region’s forests, including for the purpose of making progress towards individual Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
However, South Asia faces significant challenges in managing its forest sector. For example, decades of conflict in Afghanistan have led to substantial forest loss, while in India, forest cover has stabilized but forest quality is deteriorating. In other countries, development pressures from expanding settlements and agriculture are driving the conversion of forestlands.
As the pressures on forests continue to grow, it is imperative to better understand and measure the current economic contribution of forests, including the costs of forest degradation. It is equally important to assess the efficacy of current regulations and policies around forests, accompanied by an assessment of institutions and technical capacity, where needed. Lack of policies on payments for ecosystem services, for instance, can hinder beneficial forest management activities for reducing sediment in the upper catchments of hydropower plants, or prevent communities from benefitting from such payment mechanisms. At the same time, weak institutions and lack of technical capacity can prevent even the most progressive forest policies from supporting inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
The objective of this activity is to inform policy dialogue and strategic engagement on forests with South Asian countries as governments move towards sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This programmatic approach consists of the following activities:
- Afghanistan Capacity Development for Natural Resource Management (NRM): In Afghanistan, conflict and the lack of adequate governance structures and management and institutional capacity have heavily damaged the natural resource base that the majority of the population relies on, particularly in rural areas. This activity aims to: (i) raise awareness about the NRM role in supporting livelihoods, enhancing resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change and disaster risks; and (ii) assess the capacity of key institutions to implement the newly adopted NRM Strategy.
- Forests, Poverty and Resilience in Bangladesh: The World Bank is undertaking a Country Environmental Analysis focused on urban areas, to demonstrate cost-effective development pathways that tackle acute pollution levels and natural resource degradation in Dhaka, while at the same time controlling congestion and environmental externalities in newly growing cities. As part of this larger activity, PROFOR funding will support an investigation into natural infrastructure’s potential benefits for climate resilience in urban areas and peripheries. Outputs will include an analytical report on the cost of forest degradation in terms of lost revenues, incomes for local communities, and increased damage from extreme events; engagement workshops to consult key stakeholders and discuss the direction of the assessments, the preliminary findings and policy implications; and dissemination workshops.
- India Forest Sector Assessment: To better understand current and emerging challenges in forest management, this activity will assess the demand and supply of forest and timber resources in India, as well as the economic costs of the timber trade and forest fires, and the scope for forest-related agribusinesses to generate jobs. In addition, the activity will identify options for restoring degraded forests, sustainably managing forests, and strengthening forest monitoring and evaluation.
- Pakistan Forestry Sector Engagement Study: Pakistan’s diverse forest resources face rapid deterioration as a result of land conversion by large development projects, and overexploitation by poor communities who have few livelihood alternatives. In response, this activity aims to better understand the contribution of the forestry sector to achieving the country’s development priorities. PROFOR is supporting a review of forest sector policies and management practices through the collection and analysis of secondary information, as well as stakeholder consultations with federal and provincial government officials, development partners, civil society organizations and research institutions.
- Nepal Forests, Poverty and Tourism: The aim of this project is to strengthen the Government of Nepal’s capacity to better manage its natural resources, to deliver on its national goal to reduce poverty through sustainable and inclusive growth. The activity outputs will include: (i) A policy assessment of current practices in management of natural resources, including for tourism purposes and current and potential linkages between conservation, hydropower development, and tourism; and (ii) an engagement note describing the potential contributions of forests to economic growth and jobs, sustainable water resources management, and hydropower development.
- General Knowledge Management: To disseminate the knowledge generated from the various country activities, this component will share experiences and best practices among policy makers and technical experts from the region, including through workshops and study tours, and produce regional and cross-country policy briefs to inform forests investments and policy design.
- In Afghanistan, The development objective was achieved by taking stock of existing practices, engaging the sector’s key stakeholders in an ongoing dialogue at various levels, assessing capacity of Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), and by developing knowledge about key areas of interest to the Government counterpart. This activity was used as a process for interacting with stakeholders and development partners through informal meetings, knowledge exchange, and high-level roundtables. The MAIL delegation, through the exchange visits to India, learnt about the critical and productive role of women in the NRM sector. They noted that the Natural Resources Management practices relating to gender specific roles such as women-managed committees for better management of renewable natural resources could be replicated in Afghanistan.
- In Bangladesh, a wetland background paper has been finalized. The study is cross-sectoral and covers urban waste management and urban planning/development issues as well as urban wetlands issues. The findings have informed another ASA led by World Bank`s Urban Global Practice “Toward Greater Dhaka”. The study also identified issues and areas of priority in terms of urban environment governance. The report launch event, held on September 16, 2018, was attended by various ministries and departments of Government of Bangladesh, including Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Water Resource, Ministry of Commerce, ERD, Planning Commission, BREB, LGED, Department of Environment (DOE), DWASA, as well as members of academia, private sector, civil society and media. The findings created avid interest among the attendees and received significant media coverage. The Government of Bangladesh showed interest in new operations around solid and hazardous waste management and the follow up TA will help better scope the potential investments through policy dialogue.
The regulatory and institutional analysis conducted as part of CEA informed and made recommendations to ongoing revision of Environment Conservation Rule. The CEA has also contributed to enhancing environmental aspects of the Dhaka Diagnosis led by the World Bank Urban team. The mission had meetings with the DoE on the need to continue with the CEA discussions to identify follow-on activities to address issues of pollution management in Bangladesh’s urbanizing context. The DoE expressed their need for support to assess the size of the pollution problem and to set up a continuous monitoring system. The recommended policy reforms will be followed up as part of policy notes prepared based on the CEA.
In India, All three objectives of the activity have been met. (i) The recommendations of the Forest Fire Prevention and Management Report have been fully taken onboard to inform the National FFPM Plan that is under preparation. (ii) The Forest Survey of India (FSI) is the lead agency in-charge of developing tools for forest fire detection in India. As part of the ASA, scientists at FSI had the opportunity to interact with scientists from NASA, and Australian experts on Fire Danger Rating Systems, and attend training on data and tools by NASA. This in turn helped FSI improve its forest fire detection tool and to launch a new tool on Fire Danger Rating System. The latter is now being tested and piloted in Indian states such as Uttarakhand. (ii) As previously, described, a workshop with national and international experts was organized in November 2017 to share experiences with best practices on forest fire management. This activity has been completed.
In Nepal, Both outputs under this activity have been completed: (i) Sustainable Tourism Development in Nepal – this report is a joint output of ENR and FCI and provides an overview of potential for tourism development in Nepal, an assessment of the main challenges, and recommendations for way forward. (ii) Promoting Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas – this is a compilation of case studies of nature-based tourism that can benefit communities and conservation. The Sustainable Tourism Development in Nepal report has helped inform the design of the Nepal Tourism project that is under preparation.
The compilation of case studies on nature-based tourism was used to organize the Conference on Sustainable Nature-based Tourism: Sharing Global Experience in Protected Areas in Nepal on January 21-22, 2019. This conference was jointly organized by ENR GP, FCI GP, and IFC with the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoFE), Government of Nepal (GoN). GoN officials were very happy with the opportunity granted by the conference to share global experiences, particularly to hear from community leaders and private sector actors on sustainable and inclusive tourism models. One direct and immediate outcome of the conference was an announcement from the MoFE to consult a wide range of stakeholders on the draft Working Procedures. This was a request from one of the conference participants particularly to consult tourism operators, and MoFE officials made a commitment to do so during the closing session. The close-door session on the second day also led to a very productive discussions and a request from the GoN for WBG to provide inputs to the Working Procedures through inputs from experts and a Study Tour for park managers to expose them to innovative models of tourism in protected areas that support conservation and benefit communities.
In Pakistan, a forest sector review (Policy Note) to highlight available information about the forest sector in Pakistan, its key economic and ecological contributions and challenges faced by the sector has been completed and published here. The forest sector review has identified major issues of the forest sector in the country. It also highlighted challenges and opportunities for promoting forest investments in major ecological zones (different forest types) and poor communities of the country. Lessons learned from previous and ongoing forest investments in the country has been analyzed. It has helped the World Bank to recognize importance of forests, and opportunities it provides in supporting local livelihood, national economy, climate change resilience, gender balance and maximizing finance for development. As a result, the Bank might engage with the federal government to develop a forest project. A more detailed report prepared by FAO was launched on August 1, 2019 by the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam and FAO Representative in Pakistan, Minà Dowlatchahi. Two more studies financed by other sources are being finalized, which build on the findings of the forestry sector review. A study on value chain of key NTFP is ongoing. Another study on catchment management case on the Mangla Dam is also linked with the regional KGGTF catchment study and will be finished by June 2019.
Last Updated : 06-09-2020