Swoyambhu Man Amatya
Current situation of forest resources and the forestry sector
Nepal is situated between India and China, and extends over an area of 14.7 million ha. Administratively, Nepal is divided into five development regions and 75 districts. Physiographically, the country is divided into five regions, according to altitude (the Terai, the Siwalik, the Middle Mountains, the High Mountains and the High Himal). Of the total land area, forests cover 4.27 million ha (29.0 percent) and shrub covers 1.56 million ha (10.6 percent) (DFRS 1999). The annual rate of forest depletion in the Terai was 1.3 percent from 1978/79 to 1990/91. In the hilly area, forest areas have declined at an annual rate of 2.3 percent from 1978/79 to 1994. In the whole country, from 1978/79 to 1994, the forest area has decreased at an annual rate of 1.7 percent (DFRS 1999). This trend indicates the continuing pressure on forest resources, especially in the Terai. Forest depletion has caused serious problems including decline of agricultural productivity and environmental degradation. The Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation has estimated the annual cost of deforestation to be about 11 billion Nepali rupees (MFSC 2000).
For conservation and management purposes, forests are classified into five categories.
In the case of government-managed, community, leasehold and religious forests, the land is owned by the state but management and utilization are assigned to different entities. In private forests, land and tree ownership rests with private entities.
Current and emerging issues, trends and problems
Currently the emerging issues in Nepal’s forestry sector are in community and leasehold forestry. Community forests are part of the national forests handed over to user groups to conserve, manage and utilize for the basic needs of the community. Community forestry in the hills, in most cases, is functioning well and communities are deriving various benefits. Conversely, it has not been functioning well in the Terai. Leasehold forests are leased to private individuals, cooperatives, institutions and commercial enterprises. An emerging issue in this type of forest is that local communities should permit leasing of forests to poor and disadvantaged groups.
In addition to these issues, the forests of Churia, Terai and Inner Terai are very fragile. They need to be conserved. In order to check the depletion of forest resources, to improve conservation and achieve sustainable forest management (SFM), especially in the Terai, Churia and Inner Terai, the government is trying to introduce a new forest management concept with the following major elements:
The government views people’s participation as important for the management of the Terai, Churia and Inner Terai forests. Community forestry operational plans will have to be prepared and forest products will be utilized based on the annual increment and according to prescribed guidelines related to the marketing of forest products. The government is willing to provide 25 percent of the income derived from government-managed forests to local governments (Village Development Committee and District Development Committee). The remaining 75 percent will be collected as government revenue. It has been proposed that the government will collect 40 percent of the earnings from community forests for program implementation. Community forest user groups have raised this revenue sharing mechanism as a major issue in the management of forests of the Terai, Churia and Inner Terai.
Current national forest policies
In Nepal, forestry legislation used to be formulated to resolve past problems related to protection rather than to meet present and future needs for better management and increased production. As a result, legislation that included several major acts and associated rules was not in accordance with the spirit of the new forestry sector policy. This discrepancy was particularly noticeable in the case of community forestry. Policy is now very clearly oriented towards ‘people’s participation’ in contrast to the previous legislation such as the Forest Act of 1961, which originally aimed to prevent villagers from entering forests.
The Nepal National Forestry Policy of 1976 was the first document indicating the government’s intentions concerning the use and management of forest resources. The National Forestry Plan was developed by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. In the Seventh Five-Year Plan period (1985 to 1990), the National Planning Commission adopted the policies of the plan and developed them further. The objectives were to meet the people’s need for forest products, including timber, fuelwood, and fodder; to maintain or restore the ecological balance through reforestation and watershed management; and to derive maximum economic gains from forest products by promoting the export of medicinal plants. The main policies of the Seventh Five-Year Plan were to supply the needs of daily life, including fuelwood, timber, fodder and grass, to carry out afforestation on a large scale, and to protect afforested areas, all by encouraging people’s participation.
Master Plan for the Forestry Sector
The Master Plan for the Forestry Sector (MPFS 1989) prepared by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation and approved by the government in 1989 provides a 25-year policy and planning framework. The long-term objectives of the forestry sector as set out in the plan include the following:
The Master Plan for the Forestry Sector guides forestry development within the comprehensive framework of six primary and six supportive programs to achieve its objectives. The main features of the Master Plan lie in an integrated and program-oriented approach to forest and watershed management. This program approach was a turning point in the history of Nepal’s forestry sector policy.
Both the Eighth (1992 to 1997) and the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1997 to 2002) prepared by the National Planning Commission, followed the Master Plan to continue its main thrust of people’s participation in forest management. The main objective of the Ninth Five-Year Plan is poverty alleviation by providing economic opportunities for poor people and encouraging their participation in development activities.
The Forestry Sector Policy 2000
Recently, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation has formulated a revised forestry sector policy (MFCS 2000). This is an updated version of the Master Plan and subsequent amendments. The revised policy outlines development strategies and programs and funds required to develop the forestry sector. The policy is also recognized by the Agricultural Prospective Plan, the Nepal Environmental Policy and Action Plan and the National Biodiversity Action Plan.
Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002-2006)
Currently, the National Planning Commission is formulating the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002-2006). Intensive forest management and poverty reduction are the main thrusts in forestry (Tenth Five-Year Plan, 2001). Areas of legislative reforms have been identified with emphasis on removing the anomalies of the current legislation, especially by forming a committee that represents only poor people within the community forest user groups, handing over leasehold forests to the poorest of the poor and recognizing Churia areas as protected forests for management.
Process and mechanisms of policy formulation
Policies related to forests are formulated following a specific procedure. Concerned departments produce policy outlines and forward them to the ministry for debate. The ministry then seeks the views of its senior staff and a draft policy is prepared. The concerned ministry then sends the draft policy for an expert review to the Ministry of Law and Justice. After finalizing the draft policy, the concerned ministry sends it to parliament. A sub-committee of the parliament discusses the draft and sends it to parliament for debate. Once it is approved by parliament it appears in the Gazette as legislation.
In Nepal, a forum known as the Forestry Sector Coordination Committee allows foreign partners working in governmental and non-governmental organizations, concerned individuals from various organizations such as the Federation of Community Forestry Users Groups, to provide their expert opinions before forest policies are formulated and published in the Gazette.
Nepal has diverse institutional arrangements from individual households through community, government, semi-government and non-government organizations to private enterprises for the use and management of forest resources. These institutions have their comparative advantages in different management/use roles under different ecological, physiographic and socio-economic conditions. If appropriate roles are allocated to these institutions on the basis of comparative advantage, the use and management of forest resources can be more effective, efficient and sustainable.
There is sufficient capacity within the country for policy formulation and implementation. The policy is implemented by formulating development programs. A concerned organizational set up that has functional responsibility, helps to implement programs efficiently. In the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MFSC), a legal section helps to formulate policy matters and provides expert opinions on draft legislation and legal interpretation. However, there is no separate wing in the ministry that exclusively looks after policy formulation and analysis.
Within the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation a number of steps have been taken concerning organizational reforms. The process of organizational reforms is still ongoing. The Ministry of General Administration is responsible for such a change. According to this ministry, one of the reasons for constant reforms is to maintain cost-effectiveness and efficiency.
The Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation has sufficient skilled human resources for policy formulation and implementation. Most available human resources have managerial capacities as well. However, the capacity for monitoring and evaluating the effects and effectiveness of forest policies needs further strengthening. There is no separate institutional arrangement that deals with this aspect.
Implementation of forest policies and impacts
The Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation is responsible for implementing policies and monitoring their impact. In its annual plan, the ministry reports to the National Planning Commission on policy application in the field and the mitigation of problems. Policy coordination among sectors is the responsibility of the government, especially of the National Planning Commission. The ministry initiates any necessary changes in legislation, and implements them in the field. Presently, the government is considering a review of the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector.
Conclusions and recommendations
Because of the complexity of the forestry sector, a holistic approach is needed to translate the forest policies into actions. As forest policies are multi-dimensional and interrelated, a mix of strategies is required. Land-use planning, increased production of fuelwood, timber, fodder and non-wood forest products, effective harvesting and distribution, reduction in consumption and promotion of private forestry are some of the key points that have a direct bearing on achieving SFM. According to the current government policy, Nepal will promote community forestry in the midhills where forests are crucial for stabilizing soils and protecting watersheds. Equally necessary is the issuance of legislation conducive to the implementation of each program. The allocation of sufficient financial resources guarantees effective program implementation.
In reviewing the forest policies of Nepal, Bajracharaya and Amatya (1993) concluded that the different policy guidelines provided by the major plans at the national level were adequate and correct. However, these national-level policies were not translated adequately into regional and program strategies. Most importantly, the broad policies were not translated into operational tactics. The time has come to act rather than formulate yet another set of policies.
Bajracharya, K. M. & Amatya, S. M. (1993). Policy, legislation, institutional and implementation problems. In: Forest resource management in Nepal: Challenges and need for immediate action. Compiled by Gautam, K.H., Joshi, A.L. and Shrestha, S.P. Nepal Foresters Association, Kathmandu, Nepal.
DFRS (1999). Forest resources of Nepal (1987-1998). Department of Forest Research and Survey/Forest Resource Information System Project. Publication No. 74. Kathmandu, Nepal.
MFSC (2000). Revised forestry sector policy 2000. Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, Kathmandu.
Nepal Biodiversity Action Plan (2000). Nepal biodiversity action plan. Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. HMG/N; Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Program, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001). The Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002-2006) Final Draft. Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. Kathmandu.