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Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, India


The tropical dry forests of Asia occur in areas with rainfall ranging from of 500 to 1000 mm/yr. These forests are relatively open. The people living in and around these forests depend heavily on them for livestock grazing as well as for fuelwood, building poles, bamboo and a range of other products and services. Many of these forests are fragile, and unsustainable harvests, even if light, can lead to severe degradation, weed infestation and increased susceptibility to fire and insect damage. Large areas have degenerated into grass and scrub land. Dry forests in these areas often merge into arid or even desert margin zones where the natural tree cover becomes increasingly spare. Currently, only 15 percent of the dry forest zone in Asia is forested (FAO, 1993).

Table 1: Deforestation in the Dry Zones of Asia


Total Land Area of the Zone
(million ha)

Total Forested Area in 1990

Annual Deforestation
(1981 - 1990)

million ha

% of Zone

million ha

% of Zone







World Total






Source: FAO, 1993

The dry tropical forests pose management challenges very different from those of the moist tropics. Most of the native tree species are slow growing and drought tolerant. During hot dry spells, biological activity is reduced to a minimum as a means of survival. Fire is an important hazard.

The wood produced from dry forests is usually hard and durable and with few exceptions, is generally only commercially marketable on a local basis. Regeneration from seeds and coppice shoots is very common. Regeneration also relies on grazing animals eating the pods and excreting the seeds; otherwise, the seeds are able to survive for years in the soil. A high proportion of the tree species coppice, producing vigorous new growth when the main trunk is cut. Many of the species are fire resistant when larger than pole size. Wildlife is a significant element in the management of these areas. It is extremely important for generating local employment through eco-tourism.

Where rainfall is scarce but reliable, sustained yield management is technically feasible. This is usually based on replacement or enrichment planting. The drier the area or the more erratic the rainfall, the poorer the record of replacement planting tends to be. In some areas, studies have shown that the yield from exotic species may be less than that of the indigenous forest cleared to make way for them.

The management emphasis in the drier areas has consequently been shifting towards the regeneration and management of existing forests with indigenous and endemic species and the afforestation of degraded or even completely barren areas. In a number of countries, demonstration plots in which cutting and grazing have been forbidden and fire has been excluded for a number of years have shown a remarkable ability to regenerate both from coppice and from seed that has lain dormant in the soil. A common example is a scheme called “Rehabilitation of Degraded Forests (RDF)” in India, which greatly relies on this phenomenon. This suggests a method of management capable of restoring and sustaining the productive capacities of large areas of forest in these areas, where the root stock is still intact (MoEF, 1999).

Important non-wood forest products (NWFPs) from the dry forests include gums (such as gum arabic), fodder, honey and grazing, whose production is included in the objectives of management of some forests. Other management objectives include maintenance of populations of wild animals as an important component of biodiversity conservation and support of eco-tourism.

The main problem in implementing forest management schemes in most of the dry forest areas is the intensity of existing land use. Even in badly degraded areas, people may rely completely on what is left of the forests for browse and fuel. Closing off areas for regeneration, even though it will produce long-term gains, can impose intolerable short-term burdens upon people. In cases of shared ownership of land, difficulties may also arise in arriving at satisfactory methods of dispersing the various benefits and costs involved.

Plantation forestry is a well-established form of intensive forest use. However, in tropical areas, plantation forestry needs much improvement in several aspects. There are numerous examples of plantations that have failed or of sites that have been degraded by ill chosen exotic species. A review of tropical plantations by Pandey (1992) observed that planning is generally poor, particularly in relation to vital issues such as the matching of species to the site. Plantation projects are often designed in haste, with scant attention paid to important issues because of time or financial constraints.

In the developing world, the main physical limitation to the future contribution of plantation forestry is the availability of land. With expanding farming populations using all the available non-forested land for food production, the areas available for plantations are becoming ever more restricted. The experience of the past two decades shows that degraded or “waste” lands may be the only resource available to poor people.

There are, however, large areas where the natural forest has been badly degraded or where the soil fertility has been lost due to unsustainable use, which could be used for plantations. Such schemes would provide a source of empowerment and long-term income, provided the needs of local people are recognized from the beginning. Large areas (150 million ha) of salt affected land in the developing countries can be brought into productive use by planting them with salt-tolerant trees. But even then, there could be competition from agriculture. Major efforts are being made in some areas to rehabilitate such lands or to use them for salt-tolerant crops. Other problematic sites include mined-out areas and their overburdened dumps, waterlogged areas along unlined canals, hard lateritic soils, and so on. All these areas can be brought under green cover through use of site-specific species and technology.

Considering the fragility of dry areas and recognizing that the “policing” approach of conservation and protection has not succeeded, greater emphasis has to be given to people’s participation in forest management, decision-making and benefit sharing. Management of dry forests should, therefore, aim at the application of practices that are ecologically sound, economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally acceptable; and which do not reduce the potential of these resources to deliver multiple benefits (Hardcastle, 1999). Some of these broad principles hold great promise for sustainable forest management and development of dry forests of this region.



Ancient Indian texts of the Mauryan period (4th - 3rd century BC) are a testimony to the fact that the concepts of forestry and forest management practices were well developed during those times. The primary document that highlights the scientific approach to the aspects of administration, forest policy and their enforcement is the “Arthashastra” of Kautilya, which is the treatise and Bible of Indian administration. There was a regular and independent Forest Department in the administration of Chandragupta Maurya. Kautilya, a great visionary as he was, sketched an ideal Indian State with forests as an important part. In “Arthashastr he mentioned four types of forests (Rangrajan, 1987; Rawat, 1991):

· Pashuvan (Deer Forest)
· Mrigvan (Game Forest)
· Dravyavan (Productive Forest)
· Hastivan (Elephant Forest)

The Productive Forest was for commercial production of forest produce, the Elephant Forest for capturing wild elephants and nurturing them and the Game Forest for recreational use like hunting. The Vanaprasthas or forest recluses were also allotted parts of forest for their habitation, meditation and contemplation. The well-protected Leisure Forest, intended for the King’s pleasure, had plantations bearing sweet fruits, thornless trees and pools of water. It was stocked with tame and harmless deer, elephants and other wild animals. Wildlife sanctuaries and wildlife protection also found a mention in “Arthashastra” (Rawat, 1991; Pandey, 1996, 1998; Prasad, 1999b).

Kautilya said whoever plants a large forest for exploiting the timber resources, near the border of his State, watered by a river and yielding material of high value, is said to outmaneuver others. A forest watered by a river is self-sustaining and provides shelter in times of calamities. Probably today’s irrigated plantations along the canals resemble most what Kautilya described. Such examples may be compared with today’s Indira Gandhi Canal Areas in Indian Thar Desert (Pandey, 1998).

British control and management of forests marked a break from the existing practices. The era of scientific management began in 1864 with the appointment of Dietrich Brandis, a German forester, as the Inspector General of Forests. This was followed by the creation of a separate forest service, and the promulgation of legal measures, notably the 1865 Forest Act which was revised in 1878 to confer powers to the newly constituted Forest Departments. It provided for the creation of separate “reserved” and “protected” categories of forests. Concepts of working plans and management units as Divisions and Circles emerged for the scientific management of State-owned forests during this time (Rao et al., 1961).

Forest Management Scenario from 1900 - 1947

In British India in 1900, out of 788,156 sq. miles of total area, 42.56 percent was under cultivation, 44.38 percent was kept for common use of the community and only 13.06 percent of the area (1,02,942 sq. miles) was notified as reserved and protected. Most of the exploitable areas and important tree species were brought under working plans. All silvicultural systems were designed and implemented for commercial harvesting and regeneration of important timber species for resource generation without much consideration of the ground flora or non-commercial trees or the ecological consequences of such management practices (Rao et al., 1961).

Forest Management in Post-Independent Period

Since Independence, progressive and effective steps have been taken by the Government of India and State governments for the protection and preservation of forests and wildlife in the country. The Constitution of India provides guidelines for the protection of forests and wildlife. The Directive Principles of State Policy assigns duties to the States and citizens through Articles 48-A and 51-A (g), which say, “State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country; and the citizens are to protect and improve the natural environment including the forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for the living creatures.

Prior to 1970s

Post Independence, the abolition of “Zamindari” system and the application of land ceiling laws brought large private forest areas under Indian Government’s control. Notification and scientific management of these forest areas were the major tasks of the forest service in the early 1950s. In 1950-51, the recorded forest area was 40.48 million ha. It increased to 66.80 million ha in 1976-77 and to 76.52 million ha in 1996, i.e., an increase of 36.04 million ha (Gadgil and Guha, 1992).

The 1952 Forest Policy that was the first after Independence, laid down that one-third of the country’s land area should be under forest cover for ensuring a balanced and complementary land-use system. It introduced the fundamental concept of self-sustenance for meeting local and national needs, advocated extension forestry, provided for the management and control of private forests, containment of shifting cultivation and creation of village forests. The policy also focussed on the need to protect wild animals through setting up of sanctuaries and national parks. However, it had a bias towards timber yield and revenue generation by replacement of inferior species with a valuable commercial species and did not highlight sustainable management of non-wood forest produce. It proposed administration of forests in financial terms, i.e., protected forests, forests for national use, village forests and treelands. Not much emphasis was laid on the involvement of people in forest management and protection, but in 1966, the Indian Forest Service was revived to ensure coordinated professional management of forests.

Post 1970

In 1970, a National Wildlife policy was adopted by the Indian Board of Wildlife, leading to the enactment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, amended in 1991. In 1976, the subject of “forest” was transferred from the State List to the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India to ensure uniform policy and management. From commercial or production forestry that considered all non-teak forests to be inferior, management emphasis shifted to a broad spectrum of goods and services provided by forests. The Forest Conservation Act enacted in 1980 and later amended in 1988, provided that areas recorded as “forests” in government records cannot be transferred for non-forestry use without prior approval of the Government of India. This legislation brought a drastic reduction in forest loss from the average level of 0.143 million ha/year during the 30 years from 1950 to 1980, to the average of 25,000 ha/year during the 15 years from 1980 to 1995. This, reportedly, has further declined to about 20,000 ha/year between 1995 and 1999 (MoEF, 1999). Moreover, this conversion now requires “compensatory afforestation” on an equivalent area or double the area on degraded forestlands.

In view of the growing demand for and dwindling of forest resources, social forestry was introduced during this time to bring about a transformation in the relationship between the State Forest bureaucracies and the local people. In spite of the good intent and spirit behind the social forestry programs, many of them failed due to the “we work and you participate” attitude of the foresters who promoted these programs.

A separate Ministry of Environment and Forest was created in the Union Government in 1985 and the forest wing from the Ministry of Agriculture was transferred to the new ministry.

The National Forest Policy of the country was revised in 1988 (MOEF, 1988) with the principal aim of maintaining environmental stability and ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium by conserving the natural heritage of the country. The new policy gave priority to the conservation of forests and biodiversity. The derivation of direct economic benefit from forests has been subordinated to this principal aim.

The new Forest Policy (1988) gave special emphasis to conserving the natural heritage, preserving flora and fauna, meeting fuel, fodder, non-wood forest produce and small timber requirements of the rural and tribal population, and increasing forest area and productivity to meet local and national needs. This is to be achieved through a massive people’s movement for afforestation and protection with the involvement, specially, of women and encouraging forest-based industries to develop direct linkages with the rural people for their raw material requirements. People living in or near forests have the first charge on forest produce. The national goal of the policy is to have a minimum of one third (two thirds in the hills) of the total land area of the country under forest or tree cover.

The Present Scenario

The 1988 Forest Policy has ushered in an era of interaction, co-operation and co-ordination between the foresters and the community. The Government of India issued on 1st June 1990, a guideline highlighting the need and the procedure to be adopted for the involvement of village committees and voluntary agencies in the protection and development of degraded forests. In the 1995 forest assessment, India had 3.50 million ha of forests with less than 70 percent crown density, 35.00 million ha with 40 - 70 percent crown density, 24.93 million ha with 10 - 40 percent crown cover and 6.08 million ha of scrub area. Thus, only 11.73 percent of land area had reasonably good forest cover of over 40 percent crown density against the 33 percent stipulated in the National Forest Policies of 1952 and 1988.

Participatory Forest Management

Joint Forest Management and other forms of Participatory Forest Management systems currently being developed by many State Departments and village communities hold a great promise and have created areas of new hope for regeneration and sustainable development of multiple-use forest areas all over the country.

Table 2: Forest Area Statistics of India

Forest Area

million ha

Legally recorded forest area


Actual area under forest cover (1995)*


(Natural Forests)




Actual area under forest cover (1997)


Sources: FSI, 1997; *FAO, 1997

The forestry sector in India has traditionally been one of the most organized sectors with more than a century-old tradition of scientific management. However, of late, it has been affected by a rapid increase in population, insufficient infrastructure and diversion of forest areas for developmental activities. In addition to these, there are several other problems like inadequate public awareness about the working plans of the forests, technological weakness, insufficient funds and facilities, and conflicting roles and functions of the public forest administration that are unique to forestry. These have necessitated the search for a workable framework for scientific and sustainable management of forest resources, which allows adoption of a multidisciplinary approach and inter-sectoral co-ordination in forest matters. This would help translate into action the national commitment to “Agenda 21” and the “Forest Principles” made at the Earth Summit (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, June 1992.

Sustainable Forest Management as an Issue and an Opportunity

The major task before the country is to rehabilitate the degraded forests and to enhance the area under forest/tree cover to 33 percent of total area as envisaged in the National Forest Policy 1988 (MoEF, 1988). Though continuous efforts are being made, the results are discouraging due to the ever increasing demand for forest products and limited financial resources (<10 percent of the total plan allocation). To reverse the process of degradation and to achieve the goal of the National Forest Policy 1988, the Indian Government, with input from the UNDP and FAO, has proposed the National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP) to address these issues (MoEF, 1999).

The objective of the NFAP is to evolve issue-based programs in line with the National Forestry Policy (1988). It is a comprehensive strategic plan to address the key issues underlying the major problems of the forestry sector. Its program structure is based on the proposals in the 26 State Forestry Action Programmes (25 from States and 1 from the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (MoEF, 1999)). Apart from forest conservation and development, the NFAP also stipulates substantially enhanced outlay for holistic forest management. To achieve these goals, NFAP envisages an investment of US$ 32 billion over the next 20 years

The NFAP recognizes that a rational and balanced combination of different forest functions- production, protection conservation and provision of environmental amenities - is essential to help conserve the sustainability of forests. The concept and goal of sustainable forest management is holistic in this respect and the task ahead is multidisciplinary.


Pakistan is mainly a dry country. About 51 percent of the land area lies in the arid zone, where tree growth is extremely limited. Bushes and grasses grow in this region, but they are often devoured by large herds of livestock, the mainstay of the inhabitants. Approximately 37 percent of the country is semi-arid, where tree growth is possible. But this area is mainly utilized for rain-fed agriculture, since marginal farming gets preference over tree culture in a food-deficit country. Only 12 percent of Pakistan is sub-humid and, thus, well suited for tree culture. About 20 percent of this region is already under dense, productive natural coniferous forests (FAO, 1993).

The Situation Before 1947

Prior to 1947, Hazara, Malakand, Murree Hills and the northern areas had dense forests. The terrain in these areas was mountainous and the forests were, and still are, the main source of livelihood for the people. During the colonial rule, the tribesmen were given generous rights in the forests and adjoining land and the dependence of the local agro-pastoral economy on grazing of livestock was recognized. The low population densities of livestock and humans posed no threat to the forests.

Forests were divided into two categories: “Reserve Forests” and “Guzara Forests”. Guzara Forests were adjacent to the village settlements and the ownership of land and its trees was vested with the people, either individually or jointly as family ownership or as village “shamilaat” (common property). However, the legal claim to these forests lay with the British. Reserve Forests were well delineated and demarcated dense forests on the hills and distant from the settlements. All activities except those permitted through special notifications, were prohibited in these forests.

The Situation After 1947

When Pakistan was established in 1947, it inherited forest cover less than 2 percent of its territory. There was a meager forest resource in the Western half, but the country remained self-sufficient in wood and wood products until 1971. Efforts to increase the forest area since then have had limited success due to the arid climate in most parts of the country, the low priority assigned to forestry in the planning process and the consequent inadequate funding.

The Forestry Policy of 1955 recognized the scarcity of forest resources and emphasized forest development and production, with equal emphasis on non-tangible benefits of the forest produce. The 1962 policy further stressed the importance of production and regeneration of forests and of improvement in the processing techniques for better forest utilization. Guidelines for watershed management and rehabilitation programs for proper soil conservation in forest areas were also established. Subsidies were given for terracing and higher taxes were levied on highly eroded areas. Co-operative groups for soil conservation, farm forestry and planting of fruit trees on private lands were encouraged, while grazing of goats in forest areas was progressively eliminated over a period of three years.

Forestry first received some priority in 1960, when the Indus Valley Project allowed large, newly irrigated areas of Punjab and Sindh Provinces to be colonized. Government policy earmarked 10 percent of the new barrage areas for raising trees in block plantations. In 1970, about 1 million ha of forest area was added to the official forest area of Pakistan taking it to 3 million ha, after four States merged in the North West Frontier Province. The control of 17,000 ha of roadside and canal-side strips was also transferred to the province for use as linear plantations for amenity purposes. Following the land reforms in 1960 and 1972, excess land which was mostly woodland and wildland, was surrendered by the big landowners as “Resumed Land” to the provincial Forest Department for management. Around 100,000 ha of Resumed Land was notified as Protected Forests under the Pakistan Forest Act (1927).

Under the World Food Program’s Food for Work scheme, planting of bare hills, terracing of fields, erosion prevention measures and slope consolidation activities were undertaken to protect the catchments. More than 200,000 ha of forests were raised in this manner. (FAO, 1993).

The Present Scenario

The Forestry Policy of 1980 placed a bigger thrust on the planting of fast-growing tree species in areas outside forests, incentive-based development of compact fuelwood plantations, scientific harvest of forest products, conservation of wildlands for recreation, wildlife and for the medicinal plants found therein. The need to integrate forestry with other sectors at provincial and national levels was also realized.

Pakistan National Forestry Policy (1991) was influenced by the country’s social, economic and environmental needs. The country’s mainstay is agriculture, which is dependent on canal irrigation. Hence, sound management of watersheds constitutes the basic objective of the policy. At the same time, inadequate forest resources and the looming energy crisis require development of new plantations, efficient resource utilization and promotion of social forestry and agroforestry programs. The 1991 policy also aims to increase the national forest area from 5.4 percent to 10 percent in the next 15 years. Conservation of biodiversity is also being emphasized through the conservation of natural forests and reforestation and wildlife habitat improvement programs. Environmental degradation in the river catchments is to be contained in order to check soil erosion and accretion of silt in water reservoirs, to regulate water supply to increase the lifespan of multipurpose dams and to mitigate floods.

Anti-desertification measures are urgently required along with the rehabilitation of waterlogged, saline and degraded lands through vegetation treatment. It is important to generate income and employment opportunities for the rural populace and promote NGO/Voluntary Organizations’ involvement in generating environmental awareness. Rangeland management and improvement programs need to be initiated to boost fodder management.

The 1991 Forestry Policy recognizes that sustainable development requires a good base of natural resources, their uniform distribution and growth at or above the increase in population. The Forest Policy objectives revolve around the following issues.

· Conservation of forest, watershed, wildlife and range resources;
· Promotion of social forestry programs to increase existing forest areas;
· Containment of environmental degradation; and
· Conservation of biodiversity.

For an effective implementation of the policy, changes are required with respect to the following:

· Reorganization of forest administrative structure;

· Adequate financing and funding support to the forestry sector;

· Effective legislation; and

· Dedicated implementation of forestry reforms.

Forestry has been low in the national program priority rating of Pakistan. Public forests amount to a mere 2.023 million ha, i.e., just 3 percent of the total land; and yield only 1.7 percent of the total wood consumed in the country.

Pakistan’s lowlands are fertile and extensive but unproductive because of their arid condition. As a remedy, the country developed one of the most extensive irrigation systems in the world running to about 62,300 km. With irrigation, the lowlands have been transformed into highly productive areas for both food and wood production.

The Forestry Master Plan of the country (FAO, 1993) envisages enlargement of agroforestry areas to about 175 million ha so that they can produce 13 million cum of wood by 2008. The forestry base is to be expanded by about 7 times, from 3 percent (2.02 million ha) to 20 percent (15.4 million ha) by 2018. The National Conservation Strategy of 1992 prescribes planting of 100 trees/ha along the farm boundaries. Block plantations in woodlots and linear planting are also to be undertaken (Ganguli, 1995).


Bangladesh, a deltaic country has a land area of 143,998 km2, consisting mainly of low, flat and fertile land. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with a density of 756 persons per km2 and currently a population of 108.8 million, growing at a rate of 2.18 percent per year. The per capita cultivated land holding is only 0.08 ha, while agriculture is the mainstay of the Bangladesh economy. The total forest land in Bangladesh is 2.46 million ha, 16.85 percent of the land area of the country. Forests are separated into three groups: those managed by the Forest Department, unclassed State forests and village forests (FAO, 1993).

Hill, mangrove and sal forests constitute the major forest types managed by the Forest Department, covering an area of 1.46 million ha. Sal forests of the dry region and those found in the plains are also known as the moist and dry deciduous forests consisting of degraded sal (Shorea robusta) with other deciduous and few evergreen species. These species are used for posts, boat building, fuelwood and for other constructional purposes. Natural forests are unequally distributed and most lie in the eastern and southern parts of the country, with very little of forests in the north and northwest. The small forest area and the high incidence of encroachment and deforestation of the existing forest have resulted in the degradation of the soils and water resources of the whole area. Further deterioration of the vegetation will create serious environmental hazards and desertification in the north.

Unclassed State forests (USF) have been subjected to excessive overcutting and indiscriminate shifting cultivation, converting them into tree-cum-grass savannah. The USF hold great potential for tree growing but it is difficult to control the intensity and spread of fires lit by the local community practicing shifting cultivation. Attempts are being made to resettle these people and encourage them to adopt horticulture and permanent agriculture as a sustainable income source.

The dense population of Bangladesh exerts great pressure on the dwindling forest resources for fuelwood, construction timber, agricultural implements and also for agriculture and pastureland. It is essential to manage forests in a socially acceptable manner for the long-term benefit and well being of the people. The government has undertaken various activities for reducing the demand-supply gap where forest goods and services are concerned (Table 3).

Table 3: Forest Development Activities in Bangladesh


Forest Development Activity

Program Features


Mangrove Afforestation Program

115,000 ha of mangrove plantations established along the coast line with World Bank’s support


Revision of Forest Management Plans

Management Plans for hill and mangrove forests revised.

Brick Burning Control Act

Use of fuelwood in brick kilns prohibited. Brick kilns consume about 23 percent of the fuelwood produced in the country.

Up till 1990-91

Afforestation on depleted hill forests

Afforestation on 69,500 ha forest area (including 52,000 ha of USF).


Upazilla Afforestation and Nursery Project

Massive forest extension program involving participation of the local people.6,000 ha strip plantations, 8,500 ha fuelwood plantations, 1,000 ha agroforestry activities and 2,800 village afforestation projects undertaken, and 38 million seedlings distributed.

Source: FAO, 1993; Ganguli, 1995

Presently, threats to forests come from unsustainable harvesting, illegal felling, encroachment and forest denudation. Improvement, renewal and replacement of forest resources are crucial. There is a need to ensure the peoples’ participation in forest protection and management.

Forestry Scenario in 1894

Earlier, the forest policy (1894) of the erstwhile eastern India, now Bangladesh, emphasized the maintenance of forests in the hilly areas for the preservation of climate and physical conditions so as to protect the cultivated land in the plains from floods, siltation and soil erosion. Little emphasis was placed on the sustainable management of forests. The policy then coming in the wake of Royal Commission on Agriculture gave preference to agriculture over forestry practices by proposing clearance to provide additional cultivable land.

Post-1947 Scenario

Bangladesh was deficient in forest resources by 1947. The forest policy was reoriented in 1955 to place more importance on improvement of forest areas by creating plantations, improving timber harvesting, managing all forests under management plans, training forest personnel, sound management of private forests and protection and conservation of wildlife.

A review of the forest policy in 1962 intensified management to make forestry a commercial concern. Apart from undertaking intensive plantations and a more efficient use of forest produce, soil conservation activities through watershed management also received a boost.

A more pragmatic and broad-based National Forest Policy was declared by the government of the newly established Bangladesh in 1979. The major thrust areas in the policy were:

· Preservation of climatic and physical conditions;
· Recognition of the role and importance of NWFPs;
· Soil conservation and regulation of stream flows, etc.;
· Use of modern technology for afforestation and forest management; and
· Establishment and maintenance of game sanctuaries and wildlife reserves.

The forest policies formulated prior to 1979 were in the interest of the rulers at that time and did not concern local people’s needs, the overall environmental conditions or sustainable capacity of the forests. Though the forest policy of 1979 did address the needs of the local people, emphasized their involvement in forestry activities, stressed on environmental functions of the forest and also economic development based on forest and forest products, the environmental aspects has to be elaborated and further updated. There is an urgent need for a framework to manage forests sustainably for the multifarious goals of conservation of ecosystem, species and genetic diversity, forest-based income and employment generation, social welfare and equity, participation of people and the private sector and development of improved forest utilization technology.

The Present Scenario

Conservation of the present resource and restoration of the degraded and encroached lands need to be assigned a high priority. The dry sal forests of the plains are particularly heavily intersected and intermingled with the private and “khas” lands, resulting in the former’s encroachment and illegal felling. Immediate steps should be taken to demarcate and delineate the Forest Department’s lands on the ground and their participatory management under multiple land-use concepts for maximizing benefit to the local people. For proper management and particularly for protection of the existing forest areas, transport and communication facilities have to be improved.

Current management practices are deficient and defective. Except in the Sunderbans (mangrove forests), clear felling is practiced and regeneration is by planting of seedlings or by direct sowing. This system not only destroys the gene pool, but also causes depletion of land by erosion. USF have a great potential for expanding the forest area. Social forestry that also includes training and transfer of technology to the people will minimize shortage of wood, while involving women and benefiting the people. It will also impart a sense of ownership and security of the rights of use of the forests.

Siltation has become a major problem in the water supplies of the country. A policy on watershed/catchment management needs to be followed. Appropriate policy is also needed for the conservation and management of minor forest products (such as golpata, bamboo, rattan, medicinal plant species, honey, bees wax, fish, shrimp and shells).

An Environment Policy was adopted in 1992. It is complementary to the Forest Policy, and stresses conservation, expansion and development of forests, arrest of forest depletion, conservation of biodiversity, forestry research, development of wetlands and augmenting tree plantation.

Planned utilization and efficient management of water resources are keys to effective changes in agricultural production and productivity of other sectors. The massive damage caused by run off from monsoon rains is further aggravated by deforestation. The water catchment areas must be protected to prevent run off, to control the flow of silt into the rivers, to reestablish the water table and improve water storage.

Over 85 percent of the population lives in villages and depends on timber derived from village and State-owned forests. Widespread deforestation has increased flooding, erosion, siltation and desertification in the northern parts of the country. There is a need to undertake afforestation programs in the USF, homestead and marginal lands.

Most rural people are poor and remain unemployed for several months of the year. This leads to forest encroachment and illegal felling. There is a need to generate productive employment through participatory forest management programs. Proper institutional framework is the key to optimal program implementation for economic development.

Low impact logging, extraction and transportation can be achieved by new methods, and by education and training of the Forest Department, public and private sector employees. A reform in the structure and size of forest administration is also required to translate the directives of the forest policy into reality. Proper legislation, co-ordination and control of forestry activities and an audit and review of the results are all important instruments for effective implementation of the policy.

Sri Lanka

Historical Pattern of Forest Management and Utilization

The historical pattern of forest management among the developing countries, particularly those that were colonized and have heavy population pressure, is commonly characterized by an early exploitation stage. This is typically followed by a forest management system based on timber harvesting, a peak and then a decline of timber harvesting, and finally consolidation.

Early Exploitation Stage (Up to 1880s)

Sri Lanka was originally very well forested. This wealth attracted and led to the colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Industrial revolution and increase in population accelerated the opening of forests for timber and land. Heavy felling and export of timber like calamander, satinwood and ebony increased the fear of timber famine. This led to the promulgation of Forest Ordinance Number 12 and gazettement of the forests from 1850 onwards. It was then that forest management actually started in Sri Lanka (FAO, 1993; FSMP, 1995).

Forest Management Based on Timber Harvesting (1880s to mid-1950s)

Organized forest management based on scientific directions, delineation of management units and preparation of Working Plans started at this time. Yield control was introduced in 1882. Plantations of teak, mahogany and eucalypts were established to produce wood for tea chests and railway sleepers. The first Forest Policy was drawn up in 1929. It emphasized the protection of forests for conservation purposes as well as the need of the country to export timber.

Peak and Decline of Timber Harvesting (mid-1950s to early 1980s)

Preoccupation of forestry in the country continued to be with the preparation and implementation of Working Plans for timber harvesting, the development of plantations and protection of the conservation forests. A resource assessment in 1965-67 concluded that with correct management, the country could sustain an adequate supply of timber and protective environment of forest cover for all time. Hence, forest industries were established. However, by early 1980s, it became clear that forest management based on the commercial selection system could not be continued. Forest cover had dropped from 44 percent of the total land area in 1956 to only about 30.8 percent by 1992 (Table 4). Most of the deforestation had occurred in the Dry Zone, mainly as a result of planned and unplanned agricultural expansion.

Consolidation and Quest for a Better System (From mid-1980s)

The Forest Resources Development Project was launched in 1983. The first Forestry Master Plan (1986) resulted from this project. The plan invited considerable criticism for its recommendations on the harvesting of natural forest and the inadequate attention paid to conservation issues. Environmental awareness was at its peak and environment-related priorities became the driving force of forestry development. Logging operations in the natural forest were suspended. An Environment Management Division was created in the Forest Department with national conservation review as its main agenda. A strategic management plan for the Dry Zone commenced in 1995.

More than 50 percent of the forests in Sri Lanka is dry monsoon forests that is largely concentrated in the Northern, Eastern, North-Central and Uva Provinces of the country. Common tree species in these forests are teak (Tectona grandis), ebony (Diospyros quaesita), satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia), milla (Vitex pinnata) and velan (Pterospermum canescens).

Table 4: Area Under Dry Natural Forest Cover in Sri Lanka in 1992


Area (‘000 ha)

% of Forest

% of Land





Dry Monsoon Forest




Dry Zone Riverine Forest




Source: FSMP, 1995

The nation-wide rapid forest assessment and inventory in 1992-94 revealed that the dry monsoon forests have an average of about 123 stems/ha of at least 10 cm dbh. However, according to the 1982-85 inventory, there was a higher stocking, of about 700 stems/ha of at least 5 cm dbh. There has also been a drop in the standing volume since 1980’s inventory.

Previous logging (both legal and illegal) extracted volumes of timber that proved to be far in excess of the sustainable yield. The result is a degraded forest structure, which has persisted because regeneration has failed. It is not possible to meet a significant proportion of local timber demand from sustainable commercial logging in natural forests allocated for this purpose. Active silvicultural intervention is necessary for the rehabilitation and regeneration of the forest. Ecological understanding of the regeneration potential of the residual stands needs to be improved to develop appropriate silvicultural interventions. Regeneration of degraded forests will be very costly. Hence, a more feasible alternative would be to release seriously degraded forests for other land uses or convert them into forest plantations. Priority should be biodiversity conservation and watershed protection. It is essential that forests important for adjacent communities be managed for multiple use.

An environmental component was added to the investment plans prepared under the Forestry Sector Master Plan of Sri Lanka in 1995 (FSMP, 1995). A new comprehensive plan was required because of the following reasons:

· Acute wood scarcity;

· Need to consider the complexity of problems underlying forest degradation and their inter-sectoral linkages; and

· Need to give due emphasis to conservation and meeting people’s wood-related requirements from sustainable sources.

At this time, the term “Forestry Master Plan” was changed to “Forestry Sector Master Plan” because it was realized that forestry is not only about timber. It also covers biophysical, environmental and socio-economic components. The Forestry Sector Master Plan (1995-2020) was prepared on the basis of a participatory planning process that itself lasted for about two years. There was continuous dialogue with various stakeholders during this time. The new National Forestry Policy of 1995 was based on the principles of conservation as set out in the World Conservation Strategy of 1980, prepared by the IUCN. The eight main categories in this policy were:

· Role of forest in the environment;
· Forest land tenure;
· Forestry and land use;
· Sustainable development;
· Conservation of forest ecosystems;
· Recognition of research and education as priority needs in forestry;
· Inter-institutional links; and
· People and forest.

The 1995 Master Plan addresses the following important issues that past policy statements failed to address:

· Conservation of biodiversity;
· Forest-based industrial development and marketing;
· Private tree growing and NGO involvement;
· Research and development;
· Trees on non farm areas (NFAs);
· Development of institutions;
· Inter-sectoral concerns;
· Nature-based tourism; and
· Property rights, land and tree tenure.

It has been realized that people’s broad forestry-related values should be taken into account in the planning process. These include their economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual needs as well as the national need for self-sufficiency with respect to forest products.

An ADB/UNDP/FAO-assisted community forestry project, implemented in the 1980s, was not as successful as hoped. This was followed by the ADB-assisted Participatory Forestry Project, which relied on incentive-based involvement of local people in forestry. The freedom of choice of approach or methodology, objectives and strategy was not complete. Hence, there is a need to test other types of participatory approaches to multiple-use management of natural forests. The long-term goal of these initiatives would be emergence of private or people’s forestry complemented by State forestry.

The forestry Sector Master Plan aims at the following:

· Productive multiple-use forest managed jointly with the rural people and yielding a sustained flow of forest products and services that they and the rest of the society need;

· Increased forest - based income;

· Involvement of State agencies, Local Government Units (LGUs) and NGOs along with local people, to ensure that no further degradation or deforestation occurs; and

· Development of appropriate legal and institutional framework.

Stress needs to be placed on sustainability, integrated and appropriate land use, wetland conservation, maintenance of ecological processes and preservation of genetic diversity with due emphasis on research and social forestry to establish a firm relationship with the people. There is also a need to develop inter-sectoral linkages at several levels like research, development, extension and training.


The Concept of Sustainable Development

In the early 1970s, “sustainable development” became a common theme as concerns grew over the burgeoning world population and increasingly polluted environment. One of the turning points was the United Nation’s Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. It drew attention towards the need to protect and conserve the global environment and also emphasized a shift in attitudes from pure utilization towards an ecological orientation.

The Brundtland Report (1987) of the World Commission on Environment and Development characterized sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs.” The term “sustainable development” was further popularized by the Rio Summit on Environment and Development in 1992, which approved the action program, Agenda 21, under which world governments agreed to promote sustainable development nationally and in international co-operation.

At an operational level, four inter-linked dimensions of sustainable development can be recognized (economic, environmental, social and cultural. For development to be sustainable in the long-term, there needs to be a balance between these four dimensions. In its original meaning, the concept of sustainable development emphasizes intergenerational solidarity, which is the diachronic meaning of sustainability. Yet, it is being argued that sustainable development can only be achieved at the worldwide level if the foundations for an intra-generational synchronic solidarity are established between the rich and the poor, among countries and within any given country (deCastri, 1995). Also, it should be realized that sustainable development is an extremely scale-dependent process, which should, therefore, be understood and applied within both changing and open societies. All these four components of development should be equitably taken into consideration. For this, all the different economic sectors, i.e., agriculture, forestry, industry, etc., should be intimately intermingled for rational land use at the regional, national and global levels. Discussions on sustainable development have a working rationale only when the four dimensions of development are discussed altogether and in all their interactions. Real steps towards a more sustainable use of natural resources call for a new stage of human development, a new “Renaissance” with a much closer interaction between science and arts, between nature and culture.

The Evolving Concept of Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainability is a moving target and sustainable forest management does not attempt to freeze the concept as it is. There is no prospect of an early end to the pressures causing the clearing of forests. The challenge is not, therefore, to prevent these activities, but to manage them. The aim must be to ensure that wood and other forest products are harvested sustainably, that forests are harvested only in a planned and controlled manner and that the subsequent land uses are productive and sustainable.

The concept of sustainability has deep historical roots in forestry. Early forestry concerned itself with the preservation of forests and wildlife reserves for hunting by kings and nobles. Later came the concept of managing forests for the sustainable yield of timber. Management of the forest to provide a sustained timber yield is still what many foresters have in mind when they talk of sustainable forest management. This definition focuses on the production of wood and does not address the wider issues of ecological and social functions of the forests, with which timber production may only incidentally be compatible or may even be in conflict.

Management of forests solely for wood production, over the last 4 - 5 decades, has led to a steadily growing concern about the loss of other benefits. The concept of sustainable forest management has, therefore, evolved to encompass these wider issues and values. It is now seen as the multipurpose management of the forest so that its overall capacity to provide products and services is not diminished. A forest managed in this way will provide timber on a sustainable basis and will also continue to provide fuelwood, food, fodder and other products and services to those living in and around it. Its role in the preservation of genetic resources and biological diversity and in the protection of the environment will also be maintained.

Sustainable forest management is not to be confined to areas where a sustained yield of forest products and services is, at least in principle, achievable. It also calls attention to huge areas of degraded and disappearing forests. It is precisely in these areas that the need for managing the remaining forest is the greatest.

The approach to achieve sustainable forest management must be a holistic one, encompassing land-use planning and wider questions of rural development. Within this framework, it becomes a broad-based and multi-faceted activity. Management for sustainability will, therefore, first be concerned with securing an improved livelihood for the present generation, while maintaining the potential of the forest heritage for future generations. Second, forest potential must be seen within the wider context of rural development, in which the allocation of land to different uses is part of a dynamic process, where a balance is maintained between forests and other forms of land use in which trees have a role. Third, the responsibilities for forest management must be clearly identified and competing interests must be reconciled through dialogue and partnership. Finally, forestry activities have to compete for scarce financial resources and both the production and the environmental functions must be shown to be worthwhile to both users and financiers.

In 1795, a German forester, Georg Hartig, came up with the concept of sustainable yield by which he meant that in order for wood supply to be continuous over generations, harvests should not exceed growth. This idea formed the backbone of modern forestry in Europe and in North America (ISCI, 1996).

Traditional sustained yield management focussed primarily on the production of commodities, but has proven inadequate to meet the requirements of the present day society for various products and services and other non-material benefits. In the 1970s, the concept of sustainable yield was broadened from basic wood production to the multiple uses of forests such as the production of forest products (timber and non-timber forest products), provision of recreational opportunities, protection of the environment, etc. Consequently, the traditional concept of sustainable yield has been revised and concepts such as sustainable forestry and sustainable forest management have been developed. But, the economic aspect has not been neglected. Rather, the objective of ensuring a continuous supply of forest products (wood and non-wood) remains a central theme in many forest policies.


Sustainable forest management is the process of managing permanent forest land to achieve one or more clearly specified objectives of forest management with regard to the production of a continuous flow of desired forest products and services without undue reduction of its inherent values and future productivity and without undue undesirable effects on the physical and social environment.

For the national-level, a forest policy aiming at sustainability is a policy that guarantees the sustainability of all ecological forest types of a country in a balanced way and divided over a reasonably sized permanent forest estate. For the FMU-level, management of a certain forest is considered to be sustainable when it guarantees the continuity of all recognized principal functions of a particular forest without undue effects on the other functions.

(International Tropical Timber Council, 1992)

The general concept of sustainable forest management was considered as an important element of sustainable development in the UNCED in 1992. According to the “Forest Principles”, forest resources and lands should be managed sustainably to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual functions, and the maintenance and enhancement of biological diversity. Health and vitality of the forests are widely recognized elements of forest policies and management. They are emphasized in many efforts through which countries and organizations seek both political understanding and practical means and ways to sustainably manage all types of forests. These efforts include, among other things, the development and implementation of guidelines, criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management.

Though, there is a common understanding of what constitutes the fundamental elements of sustainable forest management, descriptions of the concept vary due to differences in perspectives of various stakeholders (government, forest dwellers, NGOs, industry, etc.), different economic, social, ecological and cultural environments and conditions and the progress in global and regional forestry dialogue.

The Council of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTC) was the first to adopt a definition and criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management as a basis for testing and demonstrating sustainable tropical forest management in its XII Session in May 1992. The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) definition, which predated the UNCED, emphasizes the productive functions of the forests.

At the second Ministerial Conference for the Protection of Forests in Europe, in June 1993, the term sustainable forest management was defined in an international political context. This definition emphasizes the potential of the forests to fulfil, now and in future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions of the forests. The most salient difference as compared to the ITTO definition is the maintenance of biological diversity of forests.

Pan-European Forest Process

Sustainable forest management means the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains the biological diversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in future, relevant economic, ecological and social functions, at local, national and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.

(Ministerial Conference on the Protection of European Forest, 1993, Resolution H1)

The other initiatives (Montreal, Tarapoto and Dry Zone Africa) did not go on to explicitly define sustainable forest management. However, criteria and indicators are intended to implicitly provide a common understanding of what is meant by sustainable forest management, in all these initiatives.

While providing a general policy direction and a long-term goal, sustainable forest management through its criteria and indicators also provides a common framework for describing, assessing and evaluating a country’s progress towards sustainability at the national level. This improves the understanding of what sustainable forest management actually means to facilitate international deliberations on this aspect and also provides a means to translate policy-level changes into field-level actions.


So far, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management at the national level have been developed within five ongoing regional and international initiatives: the ITTO, the Pan-European Forest, Montreal, Dry Zone Africa Processes and the Tarapoto Proposal (CSCE, 1994; FAO/ITTO, 1995; FAO/AFWC, 1995; ISCI, 1996).

Within the last few years, considerable efforts have been made towards the development and implementation of sustainable forest management in forest management. The concept of sustaining the yield of timber has been known for decades. But the emphasis has only recently been shifted from sustainable yield to sustainable forest management, which comprises in a holistic way, the environmental and socio-economic functions of forests instead of merely their timber production functions. However, the steps towards sustainable forest management taken so far, whether in the form of developing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, or developing and implementing better management practices, vary considerably from one region to another.

Pre-UNCED Initiatives

ITTO in 1990 developed the Guidelines for the Sustainable Management of Natural Tropical Forests, prior to the UNCED in Rio de Janeiro, 1992. It further went on to demonstrate its commitment to achieve sustainable management of tropical forests by developing criteria and examples of indicators in 1992. The Indian Forest Policy (1988) and subsequent government resolution on June 1, 1990 on the Joint Forest Management (MoEF, 1990) have emphasized the ecological, socio-cultural, and economic dimensions of sustainable forest management.

ITTO Criteria for Sustainable Forest Management

The process of developing the ITTO criteria involved representatives from producer and consumer countries, timber trade, and intergovernmental and NGOs. Sets of 5 national-level criteria and 27 indicators, as well as 6 forest management unit level criteria with 23 indicators were developed in 1991. Biological diversity was not defined by ITTO in terms of criteria and indicators.


The UNCED in Rio de Janeiro (1992) approved an action program, Agenda 21, under which world governments agreed to promote sustainable development nationally and in international co-operation. The major outcomes with implications on forests were:

· Chapter 11 of Agenda 21, on Combating Deforestation;
· Non-legally binding Forest Principles;
· Convention on Biological Diversity;
· Framework Convention on Climatic Change; and
· Post-Rio Convention to Combat Desertification.

The first three recognized the need and utility of internationally agreed upon criteria and indicators that demonstrate and characterize the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. The other two agreements also contain forest-related elements.

In Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 (section 11.23b), governments agreed to undertake, in co-operation with special interest groups, the formulation of scientifically sound criteria and guidelines for the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.

Post-UNCED Initiatives

The above agreements constituted major catalysts for the development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Since UNCED, several international meetings elaborating this issue have taken place. Four post-UNCED initiatives on developing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management at the international level are continuing at present: the Pan-European Forest Process, the Montreal Process, the Tarapoto Proposal and the UNEP/FAO Dry Zone African Initiative.

a) A year after the UNCED, in June 1993, the Second Ministerial Conference on Protection of Forests in Europe was held in Helsinki, Finland. This Conference was attended by over 200 policy makers and scientists from 37 countries and the European community, as well as a number of international, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs. As a result of the follow-up work of this Conference, known as the Pan-European Forest Process, a set of 6 criteria and 27 indicators were agreed upon. Each participating country was urged to develop national indicators to supplement the Pan-European ones (ISCI, 1996).

In January 1995, some 100 examples of supplementary descriptive indicators were introduced covering the policy instruments used for each criterion in order to enhance the sustainable management of forests. Each country may design the descriptive indicators for its own conditions when creating their national criteria and indicators.

b) In 1993, under the auspices of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), more than 150 scientists and forestry experts from 40 CSCE States and 13 international NGOs held a Conference in Montreal, Canada, which came to be known as the Montreal Process (CSCE, 1994). This is the non-European Working Group on criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests.

In order to ensure an effective follow-up, Canada hosted a small meeting at its embassy in Washington DC in December 1993. At that time, both Canada and the US were interested in bringing the European (Helsinki) and the post-Montreal criteria and indicators processes together. They were surprised when the representatives from the governments of France, Germany and the UK expressed their preference to remain primarily with the Pan-European Forest Process. From that point forward, the Montreal and the Pan-European Forest Processes developed in parallel, but with observers invited from governments in each group to attend each other’s meetings.

The Montreal Process currently involves Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, and Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Russian Federation, USA and Uruguay. A consensus, called the Santiago Declaration, has been reached on 7 national-level criteria and 67 indicators for non-European temperate and boreal forests.

c) The Tarapoto Proposal was elaborated at the Regional Workshop on the Definition of Criteria and Indicators for the Sustainability of Amazonian Forests. ITTO and the Tarapoto initiatives have both developed criteria and indicators applicable at the forest management unit level, besides those at the national level.

d) The UNEP/FAO Dry-Zone Africa Process started from an Expert Meeting on Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in Dry Zone Africa organized jointly by FAO and UNEP in November 1995. This was the first step in developing national-level criteria and indicators for countries in the Sub-Saharan Dry Zone Africa (FAO/AFWC, 1995).

e) The Inter-governmental Panel on Forests (IPF) was established in 1995 under the aegis of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) following the latter’s Third Session, as an “open ended, ad hoc inter-governmental Panel to pursue consensus in formulation of coordinated proposals for action in an open, transparent and participatory manner.” One of its priorities deals with the criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

In the second session of the IPF, which was held in Geneva on 11 - 22 March 1996, the issue of criteria and indicators was initially discussed. Countries and groups presented a range of views on the comparability and compatibility of criteria and indicators, the relationship between criteria and indicators, and partly related to this, the level at which criteria and indicators should be developed and implemented. Apart from these, specific points were also raised relating to the nature and scope of criteria and indicators and the process of their development and testing at the national and regional levels, the implications of proliferation of criteria and indicators development initiatives and their impact on certification of forest products and ongoing global trade.

f) Indian Initiatives: Bhopal-India Process

India has always been committed to the conservation of forests and biodiversity, with sustainability as the central theme of its Forest Policy (1988). However, in the absence of an implementable framework for sustainable forest management in India, there was no mechanism to provide feedback on the direction of changes taking place after the implementation of the forest policy (Prasad, 1999a). The Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), a premier autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, took a timely initiative in 1998 to generate a pool of knowledge for infusing the idea of sustainable forest management in the country. This Indian national initiative has been named as the Bhopal-India Process. Bhopal was chosen as the locus of sustainable forest management activity in India not only for its central geographic location, but also for being on an imaginary genetic superhighway connecting the two biodiversity hotspots (the Western Ghats and the eastern Himalayas. This initiative found support of a specially constituted Technical Group on sustainable forest management and the Government of Madhya Pradesh. A three-day workshop was organized from January 21 - 23, 1999 by IIFM in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh State Forest Department and Government of India. The workshop aimed at generating a base set of national-level criteria and indicators to reliably assess sustainable forest management in India. It was decided to adopt a three-tier hierarchical structure for India, involving principles, criteria and indicators, for defining sustainable forest management (Prasad, et al., 1999b).

The deliberation at this technical meeting of the Bhopal-India Process led to the identification of 8 national-level criteria and 51 related draft indicators. This set of criteria and indicators is relevant not only for the four major forest types of India, but also for the dry forests of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Bhopal-India Process Criteria and Indicators

Criterion 1: Extent of Forest and Tree Cover

1.1 Area and type of natural and man-made forests

1.2 Forest area under fragile ecosystems

1.3 Area of dense and degraded forest

1.4 Forest in non-forest area

1.5 Area rich in NWFP species

1.6 Forest area diverted for non-forestry use

1.7 Community managed forest areas

Criterion 2: Ecosystem Function and Vitality

2.1 Status of natural regeneration

2.2 Status of natural succession

2.3 Status of secondary forests

2.4 Weed, pest, disease, grazing, fire, etc.

2.5 Maintenance of food chain

Criterion 3: Biodiversity Conservation

3.1 Area of protected and fragmented ecosystems

3.2 Number of rare, endangered, threatened and endemic species including tiger population

3.3 Level of species richness and diversity

3.4 Canopy cover

3.5 Medicinal and aromatic plants and other NWFPs

3.6 Level of non-destructive harvest

Criterion 4: Soil and Water Conservation

4.1 Soil moisture

4.2 Soil compaction

4.3 Status of erosion

4.4 Run-off (water yield)

4.5 Soil pH

4.6 Soil organic carbon

4.7 Nutrient status of the soil

4.8 Soil flora, fauna and microbes

4.9 Level of water table

4.10 Sediment load

Criterion 5: Forest Resource Productivity

5.1 Growing stock of wood and non-wood forest products

5.2 Natural regeneration status

5.3 Increment of wood and non-wood products

5.4 Area of afforestation and new plantations

5.5 Level of material and technological inputs

5.6 Extent of protection measures

5.7 Level of tangible benefits

Criterion 6: Forest Resource Utilization

6.1 Aggregate and per capita wood and non-wood consumption

6.2 Import and export of wood and non-wood forest products

6.3 Recorded and unrecorded removals of wood and non-wood forest products

6.4 Direct employment in forestry and forest industries

6.5 Contribution of forest to the income of forest dependent people

Criterion 7: Social, Cultural and Spiritual Needs

7.1 Well-being in terms of livelihood, recreation, cultural and aesthetic needs

7.2 Degree of economic, social, gender and participatory equity

7.3 Conflict management mechanisms

7.4 Traditional (Indigenous) Knowledge application

Criterion 8: Policy, Legal and Institutional Framework

8.1 Existing policy and legal framework

8.2 Extent of community, NGO and private sector participation

8.3 Investment in research and development

8.4 Human resource capacity building efforts

8.5 Forest resource accounting

8.6 Monitoring and Evaluation mechanisms

8.7 Status of information dissemination and utilization

Various international and national NGOs are also actively involved in working for the development of approaches to sustainable forest management and its measurement by formulating their own principles, and/or criteria and indicators. While participating in the meetings of the international, regional and national initiatives in this direction, these NGOs bring their special interests and points of views to the discussion of forest-related matters.

The key features of all the above initiatives are consensus and dialogue. Formulation of criteria and indicators has necessitated international consensus building. Nevertheless, these criteria and indicators need to be adjusted and implemented for specific national conditions. National and international dialogues have been fuelled at each step of criteria and indicators elaboration, leading to significant advancements towards sustainable management of global forests and ultimately to the cause of sustainable development.

Currently over 100 countries are involved in developing national-level criteria and indicators. In 1989, the ITTO established a process to develop criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management (ITTO, 1992, 1997). After UNCED in 1992, interest in criteria and indicators developed faster all over the world. Some international initiatives share a common objective to develop indicators and to describe, monitor, evaluate and report progress towards sustainable forest management at the national level. In many initiatives, countries are urged to develop additional national indicators and, furthermore, to develop indicators at the sub-national and forest management unit levels.


Sustainable forest management has very high positive externalities. If all costs and benefits, direct and indirect, private and social, are taken into consideration, sustainable forest management is the most efficient, effective and least-cost option for management of forest resources. The components of sustainable forest management depend on ecological, social and economic conditions. Sustainable forest management covers all aspects of forestry in an appropriately balanced manner. In addition, it incorporates natural forests, large plantations, animals, microflora and fauna, water and soil, as well as traditional knowledge and heritage. Sustainable forest management is specific and practical for translating the concept of sustainability into reality in forestry.

· Sustainable forest management in the dry zones of South Asia would involve:

· Producing wood and non-wood forest products, first for meeting subsistence needs with the surplus for commercial purposes;

· Protecting or setting aside areas to be managed as plantation or wildlife reserves for recreational and environmental purposes;

· Regulating the conversion of forest lands for non-forestry uses; and

· Regenerating wastelands and degraded forests.

The current level of forest utilization in the region is unsustainable. In order to control and reverse this trend, it is necessary to work at different fronts (Chandrasekharan, 1999). Various approaches to achieve sustainable forest management would, thus, include:

· Inventory of resources and bio-prospecting (flora and fauna) to assess the quality and extent of the resource base;

· Functional and land capability classification of forests and land-use planning to ensure healthy and sustainable land use (production, protection, conservation), systems within acceptable safe minimum standards;

· Protection of adequate extent of natural forest for their long-term contributions, including conservation of biodiversity, wetland values and other externalities, and controlling deforestation;

· Management and utilization of forest resources (wood and non-wood products, and environmental and recreational services) for maximizing their sustainable contribution and value addition towards improved welfare of society. Creation of new, or expansion and enhancement of existing, forest resources, and their intensive and scientific management to meet industrial and commercial needs, particularly through raising plantations (providing wood and non-wood products), and including waste-free and sustainable harvesting and efficient use;

· Promotion of efforts for producing forest goods and services outside forest areas (e.g., agroforestry plantations, home gardens) and development of potential substitutes for wood from non-forest sources (e.g., rubber wood, coconut wood);

· Waste reduction and waste recycling programs;

· Feasible mediums for encouraging participation of people and the private sector;

· A proper and realistic system for costs, values and benefits attributable to forestry, to ensure a strong ecology-economy interface; and

Appropriate institutional arrangements and support for ensuring efficiency.

Forest management is no longer seen as a timber-oriented activity, yet total protection of natural forests in practical terms, for conservation purposes alone, is impossible in the region.

The natural forests in most developing countries are inadequately managed. The Forest Resources Assessment 1990 (FAO, 1995) further indicates that the growing stock per ha has increased steadily in almost all developed countries. In developing countries, however, apart from a net loss of forest area and associated stock, there has been a reduction in the quality of growing stock and biomass per unit area of the remaining forest. Instead of measures to address the causes of forest depletion, a restriction has been imposed on extraction of timber from natural forests. Without means and proper instruments to implement this decision, the result in several cases has only been a stoppage of investment and scientific management practices. This will lead to the deterioration of forests, especially when unrecorded removals are continuing.

The major issues in the dry forests of the region are elaborated below. The following section will also help suggest a set of criteria and indicators for sustainable management of the dry forests of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Extent of Forest and Tree Cover

Forest resource expansion is possible through plantations. Forest plantations have been initiated to create and expand the forest resource base, especially to fulfil the needs of the people and as a reliable source of industrial raw material. Forest plantations established under a system of clear felling followed by artificial regeneration, or by afforestation of bare lands, wastelands, grasslands and other degraded lands, are common in the region.

· Plantations can also be seen as a means to conserve natural forests, because of several advantages:

· Plantations supplement production from natural forests, thus, reducing the pressure on the latter;

· They allow choice of species of desired characteristics for an area;

· Homogeneity of production is ensured through plantations;

· Harvesting is less expensive in case of carefully planned plantations; and

· Vegetation growth and yield can be manipulated using appropriate inputs.

However, plantation forestry involves much larger investments than natural forest management and needs continuous protection and upkeep. Yet, plantations can provide a solution to the resource scarcity faced by the dry forests of South Asia. The same land may be claimed for many other purposes, as land scarcity is also a major issue here. To make sufficient land available for plantations in this region, the following potential areas are suggested:

· village common lands;
· degraded private lands;
· margins of roads, railways, canals and tanks; and
· vacant lands belonging to schools, offices and hospitals.

By appropriate selection of species and system (mixture of species, rotation, input levels, method of planting and maintenance), it will be possible to raise need-oriented plantations or mixed tree crops in the dry areas through social forestry programs.

Tree cover can also be improved by rehabilitating and enriching tree growth in marginal and degraded forestlands, promoting tree plantations in farming systems, expanding and intensifying agroforestry and homestead forestry, and planting trees in the periphery of urban centers. Expansion of State forests is constrained by lack of resources, land and financial allocation. However, private participation (community, individuals and corporate) in sustainable forest development could be a reliable strategy. These efforts could be invigorated by offering different incentives (e.g., legal and policy, institutional, financial marketing etc.).

Desertification is becoming a serious threat in the region, and controlling its spread has become a Herculean task. Restrictions should be imposed on harvesting trees from protected forests, from areas falling above a specific degree of slope and other fragile areas like river banks, margins of reservoirs, wetland, fragile watersheds, etc. The objective of natural resource conservation and protection of biodiversity can be served at least partially by cultivation of NWFP species and through development of NWFPs in agroforestry to diversify the resource and economic base.

Forest Health and Vitality

The various factors causing damage to the dry forests, and against which protection is required, include pests and diseases and natural causes such as drought and flood. Forest fire, overgrazing and other extractive activities like pilferage, deforestation, encroachment, and shifting cultivation are all anthropogenic factors that negatively affect the region’s forests. Insects, pests and diseases assume epidemic proportions when the health and vitality of ecosystems are in poor condition. The epidemic proportions of sal heartwood borer, teak skeletonizer and defoliator are some of the common examples of manifestations of reduced vigor of trees in the degraded forest areas of central India (Prasad, 1998). Stability of the resource base is very important for sustainable production, especially in the dry region. Improved forest health and vitality can be achieved through rehabilitation and enhancement of degraded lands, and through measures to remove or control factors that cause degradation.

Forest Resource Productivity

Sustainability and productivity are intricately linked. Productivity has aspects of both quantity and quality (physical scale). There is an urgent need to improve and sustain productivity of the dry forests of the region. These forests have high biological potential, but their present growth and productivity are far below the demand for various reasons. Productivity of forests has to be increased in terms of volume of wood and non-wood products and services. This increase, however, should be consistent with the environment, as sound basis for long-term development.

A sustainable increase in forest productivity can be achieved by upgrading technology, appropriate silvicultural manipulation of species, rotation and tending schedules and stand improvement operations along with infrastructure development. Each forest management unit needs to be managed to achieve its highest level of efficiency and sustainability in accordance with the main function assigned to it.

Dedicated efforts are required to replant the existing, poor quality plantations and to increase quality and productivity. Insufficient land availability may, however, necessitate intensive and integrated land use and development to optimize benefits. Considering increasing population and the consequent heavy pressure on land in the Asian region, there seems no other alternative feasible except intensive forestry, as we can no longer afford to keep productive lands under low levels of production. The management prescriptions also need to be reviewed continuously and improved on the basis of research and new information to increase the level of sustainable yield from the existing and newly created resource base.

Proper management planning necessary for sustained productivity should address all relevant issues like halting forest degradation and waste-free utilization of forest resources. Natural forests need to be managed so that they continue to provide direct and indirect benefits sustainably. Today, sustainable yield management means ensuring that a continuous flow of timber and non-wood products is available, while supporting biodiversity conservation and other ecological services. Introduction of the quality aspect to productivity yields a different scale of productivity compared to that based on physical measures only (Prasad, 1999a).

Forest Resource Conservation

Forest resources are heterogeneous, encompassing soil and water, ecosystems, trees, shrubs, herbs, microflora and wildlife, biodiversity, knowledge about flora and fauna and intellectual property. Hence, conservation extends beyond sustaining productivity, since it highlights the need for air, soil and water conservation, maintaining essential ecological process and life support systems, control of global warming, affording protection of flora and fauna, conserving biodiversity, management of parks and wildlife and much more. The concept of safe minimum standards for resource conservation provides a socially determined demarcation between imperatives to preserve and enhance natural resource systems, and the free play of resource tradeoffs.

Soil and Water Conservation

Soil and water resources in several parts of the region, particularly in mountain watersheds, river valleys, arid areas and ravines, have undergone considerable degradation. Deforestation has not only resulted in a decline in forest resource stocks, but has also affected the environment negatively in various ways. This includes soil degradation, declining agricultural productivity, damage to relatively fragile ecosystems, impoverishment of fish and wildlife populations, negative impacts on the quantity and quality of water resources, and deterioration of the micro-climate and other environmental services of forests. Forest depletion and consequent soil erosion in the mountainous regions has resulted in the siltation of water reservoirs and in the reduction of their storage capacity and hydroelectric generation potential.

Millions of hectares of land in the region are situated in ecologically fragile areas of mountain ranges, valleys and Ghats. Soil and water conservation assumes great importance in these areas. Apart from the economic and industrial plantations, there is a need to promote a massive program of tree planting on a voluntary basis for environmental amelioration and use of watershed management technology for land rehabilitation and soil conservation.

Rehabilitation of degraded lands for soil and water conservation would necessitate the following actions:

· Control of deforestation;

· Protective afforestation and soil conservation;

· Improvement of marginal lands through tree planting;

· Rejuvenation of soil through supplements and nitrogen-fixing trees;

· Rehabilitation of saline environment through the introduction of halophytic shrubs;

· Protection of fields from wind through properly-designed wind breaks, shelter belts and row planting; and

· Promotion of farm forestry and agroforestry.

Biodiversity Conservation

It is very difficult to probe beneath the static descriptions of any ecosystem and assess its long-term “health”. Biodiversity conservation is important to ensure that the underlying components of living resources i.e. habitat, species and genetic diversity are maintained.

Loss of genetic resources accentuated by forest degradation poses a grave threat to food security in the region. Destroying a “keystone species” triggers a deadly “domino effect” where other species and genes, along with entire ecosystems, crumble into extinction. These losses close off various little-understood options for future generations. Once genetic resources and their variability are lost, the promises of biotechnology will be aborted. Protection of these resources is an investment for continued life on earth (Umali, 1991).

At the national level, it will be difficult to separate the issues of environmental degradation and poverty alleviation. Poor people - faced with marginal environmental conditions - will have no choice but to seek immediate economic benefits at the expense of the long-run sustainability of their livelihoods. Creation and management of protected areas of all representative ecotypes in the region are of special significance. Protected areas and nearby natural and planted forests should be connected.

In the context of NWFPs, development, conservation of natural forests and their species richness is very important. Many of the plants providing NWFPs are found only in the primary forests of the dry regions. Some of them can only thrive within natural habitats and do not lend themselves to domestication. Their growth and cultivation in plantations depend heavily on regular infusion of germplasm from the wild gene reservoirs. Only the continued existence of species variability in the wild will allow plant breeders to have a chance to create new, disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties for the future. Thus, the genetic wealth and variability are also crucial for the development of NWFPs (FAO, 1996).

Forest Resource Utilization

Forest harvesting systems in the region should be improved and wastage reduced. Income generation through non-destructive uses of forests should be promoted. Rational development of NWFPs through integrated forest management and agroforestry systems carried out in a flexible and socio-economically acceptable manner, can considerably contribute to the welfare of the indigenous communities. Forestry-based small-scale enterprises have considerable potential for improving the welfare of such communities.

It is essential to view forest harvesting as a part of a renewal operation and a necessary part of managing resources, and not as deforestation. Some degree of production orientation to harvesting can also promote an integrated and waste-free utilization of the resource. Careful planning is, however, needed at the operational level. Prescriptions for post-harvest operations are important to ensure the sustainability of the resource.

Forest-based processing industries need to have strong backward and forward linkages and should be capable of addressing the problems of underdevelopment. There may be a need to restructure existing enterprises and to develop new ones to use forest resources as an important means for development. Innovation, residue control, plantation research, and transfer of technology are important for improving efficiency of forest-based industries. There may be a need to phase out obsolete mills and non-performing establishments, and to establish new processing units as growth centers. Research and development and meaningful involvement of local communities, supported by appropriate incentive packages are important.

Harvesting of NWFPs (from both wild and cultivated sources) is different from timber harvesting in terms of the tools and equipment used, technology, pre-harvest preparation and post-harvest treatments and requirements of immediate processing. Harvesting is a particularly weak link in the utilization of NWFPs, due to the variety of tools, techniques and situations involved. Sustainable management and utilization of NWFPs as a renewable resource, essential for meeting human needs, demand scientific knowledge, technology, skills and research support. Efficiency in production implies improving productivity, reducing wastes and indirect costs and registering an increase in the economic rate of return through processing and value addition. A code of practice for sustainable forest harvest needs to be developed and waste-free, low-impact logging and harvest should be promoted. Research, demonstration and promotion are needed to enhance understanding and to support and encourage efficiency in forest harvesting and processing.

Generation of Income and Employment in Forestry

As the pressure on forests in the dry zones of South Asia will further increase, it may become necessary to commercialize all forest products and services and to develop intensive management at the forest/farm interfaces for increasing production of both agricultural and forests goods. Even in cases where forest areas can be set aside and managed and by local communities, each forest area must at least break even on costs.

Socio-economic contributions of forests should aim at making the lives of communities living in and near forest areas increasingly comfortable. A socio-economic environment needs to be created that provides attractive conditions for the communities including diversity and flexibility in their economic activities. Forestry has tremendous potential to alleviate poverty through the creation of both on-farm and off-farm employment and income (Prasad, 1999a).

Income can be earned as wages in forest plantations. Forest-based growth centers can be created and developed to solve the problems of backward and underdeveloped regions. People can be involved and employed in a chain of activities of seed collection, nursery operations, seeding, sales, plantation and maintenance of trees and plantations, tending operations, infrastructure development, logging and transportation, etc. Harvesting of NWFPs, primary and downstream processing of varying scales and sophistication, and so on, also offer immense employment potential for local people. Simple value adding activities for NWFPs carried out at the primary collector’s level enhances the income of gatherers and ensures sustainable harvesting practices (Prasad et al., 1999a).

Forestry activities can be specially planned and organized to benefit rural women and the landless. On-farm income, for example, can be generated through tree growing and agroforestry enterprises; and off - farm through forest-based, small-scale and cottage-level enterprises, developed particularly for NWFPs, bamboo, canes and small timber.

Development of forest-related enterprises requires increases of wood and non-wood forest resources. Increased resources also multiply employment opportunities, incentives, downstream activities and welfare. This will support further expansions of the forestry resource base.

Supplying woodfuels to urban centers also provides year-round employment to landless laborers and marginal farmers. In the absence of other gainful rural employment opportunities, fuelwood headloading offers sustained employment. In many cases, such practices are said to be the main factor leading to forest degradation. This unnecessary pressure on natural forests can be minimized by improving biomass supply through agroforestry and its variants (Prasad, 1999a).

Forest Policy, Legislation and Institutional Framework

Earlier forest polices in the region tended to consider timber production as the primary contribution of forests. During the second half of the 20th Century, however, there was considerable influx of ideas and information that guided a change in policies in South Asia. This has been partly due to development of technology and changes in socio-economic concepts and values. There has been increased acceptance of concepts such as decentralized people’s participation, involvement of the private sector, development roles of NGOs, sustainable development, economic efficiency, social equity and environmental conservation.

The forests in the region are largely owned and managed by the government with people’s involvement in forestry being essentially restricted to homesteads, common land plantations, agroforestry and farm forestry. Forest policy development and implementation are the responsibility of the government. A formal mechanism should exist for regular revision of the policy in the light of new circumstances or availability of new information. While the whole process of policy development and revision calls for strong and continued political will and commitment, leadership to guide and facilitate the process is equally crucial. It is important to involve in discussion, all those who are and will be affected by the policy and to obtain their views and opinions and to provide them with clarification and elaboration. Policies should be based on the philosophy of people-based development and forest management should be designed to facilitate and benefit from people’s participation. The policy imperatives for the region should reflect the goals of environmental conservation, economic development and social progress. Hence, their major and interrelated imperatives are sustainability, efficiency and people’s participation.

Policy priorities should be decided in a holistic and balanced manner, within the overall context of environment and development. Periodic monitoring of policy measures should be institutionalized. The legitimate range of interests should be allowed, including those of local inhabitants, and efforts should be made to bring about their effective participation in all stages of policy formulation and implementation.

Forest laws, rules and regulations should be reviewed and revised to be in tune with the new forest policies, such that they will act as an instrument to facilitate forestry sector development. Forest laws need to be consolidated and updated and made uniform all over a country. Also, the process of development of forest laws, rules and regulations should be kept simple.

The changing scenario calls for several new roles for forestry agencies. The forest departments in South Asia need to undergo fundamental changes. For this, it is necessary that organizational structures, linkages, orientation, inter-institutional relationships and missions are suitably tuned.

As emphasized in the World Bank’s Forest Policy Paper, the frontier of development in forestry sector is not technology, but institutions and their human capital. Admittedly, technology and technological progress are important, but the desired links of technological changes will not take place without an adequate and supportive institutional environment, opportunities for private and public sectors to play important roles, and community participation in development.

Substantial restructuring may be necessary to allow for active participation of the private sector, cooperatives, small-scale farmers and NGOs in forest development. There is also a need to create an appropriate business environment in the sector for attracting investment.

The forestry sector should co-ordinate with other major national economic sectors to avoid conflicts and to ensure mutually beneficial development. A form of institutionalized participation in operational units should be promoted by giving long-term leases or rights to people, to enable them to become partners. Enterprise development in the forestry sector should be organized under a system of autonomous and self-financed enterprises, which will promote the participation of the private sector, cooperatives, NGOs and individuals in the functioning of the system.

There is a need to strengthen existing forestry education and training by providing trained teaching staff, improved course content and curriculum. There is a need to establish facilities for training trainers and enhancing research capabilities. It is essential to deploy adequately trained people for all technical jobs in the field, such as nursery operations, wildlife conservation, forest plantations, and agroforestry. Also those with skills in other areas and dimensions should be employed in forestry to enhance overall inter-sectoral abilities. Education and training facilities and resources should be reviewed, rationalized and upgraded periodically to cater to the changing needs of the forestry sector.

Private Sector Participation

Homestead forestry and agroforestry have developed largely as family or private initiatives. Community organizations have a comparative advantage over the government agencies in managing such centers, producing planting materials, establishing forest plantations and undertaking consultancies (Chandrasekharan, 1999).

However, a number of government regulations act as disincentives and barriers to afforestation of wastelands. These include restrictions on species that can be felled from private lands, timber transit rules, etc. Such restrictions need to be reduced to the bare minimum. Appropriate incentives, like provision of improved planting materials and technical information and support could motivate farmers to expand farm forestry. Tree growing is still not a lucrative land-use option. The role of trees grown on private lands needs to be viewed from their contribution to ameliorating climate extremes, in carbon sequestration, regulation of run-off and preventing soil wash, and in increasing the supply of tree products to the market. Apart from legal and policy facilitation for tree growing and harvest, financial, infrastructure, and marketing incentives also need to be provided to motivate private participation in sustainable forestry development.

There is a greater need to involve women, disadvantaged groups, tribal communities, local people, private organizations and NGOs in the planning and operation of forestry development programs.

Role of Forestry Research and Technology Development

Technological innovation and development is a strategically important dimension of forestry development and it is to be made possible by research. Forestry in the region critically needs research support to improve productivity, reduce losses and wastage, maximize utilization, to improve quality and value of plantations, for sustainable management of forest resources, improved conservation of genetic resources and wildlife, development of NWFPs and diversification of plantations. Research support is also essential for carrying out basic surveys and studies (e.g. on biodiversity, land sustainability, inventory and bio-prospecting), for providing basic technical data (e.g. growth and yield under different management intensities) and for documenting and validating indigenous knowledge. Further, resource inputs are essential for producing and supplying improved and certified seeds, for in situ and ex situ conservation of genetic resources and for the transfer of technology to end-users.

Research inputs are especially vital for the following areas: homestead forestry and agroforestry, watershed management, protective and restrictive afforestation, high-yield plantations, sustainable NWFP management, wildlife conservation and management, multipurpose forest management, genetic resource conservation and forestry interactions at interfaces with other sectors. Forest policy, forest economics and management are other important areas requiring research support.

Public Awareness, Information and Technology Dissemination/Extension

Public awareness and forestry extension are closely related aspects aimed at mobilizing support and co-operation from the people and for fostering better understanding. Media, exhibitions, fairs, carnivals and other public activities, annual tree planting festivals, and incorporating forestry subjects in curriculum of schools and colleges are all important for sustaining forest management.

Forestry extension can act as an outreach program for dissemination of research results and technological innovations at the rural level. Feedback from the rural recipients of extension and technology aids research institutions in developing and providing them with improved technology. Effective extension support is needed to improve people’s tree and conservation consciousness, and improve rural income and employment through forestry-related activities. Ultimately, this will increase awareness and efforts to promote the sustainable management of forest resources.

In view of the above discussion on the major forest management issues calling for action in the dry forests of the region, the criteria and indicators evolved during the Bhopal-India Process appear to be relevant as a base upon which to work and deliberate. The eight criteria for the sustainable management of dry forests of South Asia can be:

· Increase in the extent of forest and tree cover;

· Maintenance, conservation and enhancement of biodiversity;

· Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources;

· Maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem function and vitality;

· Maintenance and enhancement of forest productivity;

· Optimization of forest resource utilization;

· Maintenance and enhancement of social, cultural and spiritual benefits; and

· Adequacy of policy, legal and institutional framework.


The complete base set of 8 criteria and 51 associated indicators for sustainable management proposed for the sub-region is provided below.

Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management of Dry Forests of South Asia (Draft Set)

Criterion 1: Increase in the Extent of Forest and Tree Cover

1.1. Area and type of natural and man-made forests

1.2. Forest area under fragile ecosystems

1.3. Area of dense and degraded forest

1.4. Trees in non-forest areas

1.5. Areas rich in NWFP species

1.6. Forest area diverted for non-forestry use

1.7. Community managed forest areas

Criterion 2: Maintenance, Conservation and Enhancement of Biodiversity

2.1. Area of protected and fragmented ecosystems

2.2. Numbers of rare, endangered, threatened and endemic species, including tiger population

2.3. Level of species richness and diversity

2.4. Canopy cover

2.5. Medicinal and aromatic plants and other NWFPs

2.6. Level of non-destructive harvest

Criterion 3: Conservation and Maintenance of Soil and Water Resources

3.1. Soil moisture

3.2. Soil compaction

3.3. Status of erosion

3.4. Run-off (water yield)

3.5. Soil pH

3.6. Soil organic carbon

3.7. Nutrient status of the soil

3.8. Soil flora, fauna and microbes

3.9. Level of water table

3.10. Sediment load

Criterion 4: Maintenance and Enhancement of Ecosystem Function and Vitality

4.1. Status of natural regeneration

4.2. Status of natural succession

4.3. Status of secondary forests

4.4. Weeds, pests, diseases, grazing, fire, etc.

4.5. Maintenance of food chain

Criterion 5: Maintenance and Enhancement of Forest Productivity

5.1. Growing stock of wood and non-wood forest products

5.2. Natural regeneration status

5.3. Increment of wood and non-wood products

5.4. Area of afforestation and new plantations

5.5. Level of material and technological inputs

5.6. Extent of protection measures

5.7. Level of tangible benefits

Criterion 6: Optimization of Forest Resource Utilization

6.1 Aggregate and per capita wood and non-wood consumption

6.2 Import and export of wood and non-wood forest products

6.3 Recorded and unrecorded removals of wood and non-wood forest products

6.4 Direct employment in forestry and forest industries

6.5 Contribution of forest to the income of forest dependent people

Criterion 7: Maintenance and Enhancement of Social, Cultural and Spiritual Benefits

7.1 Well-being in terms of livelihood, recreation, cultural and aesthetic needs

7.2 Degree of economic, social, gender and participatory equity

7.3 Conflict management mechanisms

7.4 Traditional (indigenous) knowledge application

Criterion 8: Adequacy of Policy, Legal and Institutional Framework

8.1. Existing policy and legal framework

8.2. Extent of community, NGO and private sector participation

8.3. Investment in research and development

8.4. Human resource capacity building efforts

8.5. Forest resource accounting

8.6. Monitoring and Evaluation mechanisms

8.7. Status of information dissemination and utilization


Comparability of criteria and indicators has been stressed, among other things, in the FAO/ITTO (1995) Expert Consultation on the Harmonization of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management, as well as in the Program Framework of the IPF. The guiding framework for the Bhopal-India Process criteria and indicators was borrowed from ITTO’s framework and guidelines, which are more field oriented and aim at focussing on current weaknesses in forest management, and, thus, help to identify improvements in management practices. Hence, a comparison of ITTO’s criteria and indicators, those of the Dry Zone African Initiative, and the base national set derived from the Bhopal-India Process, is presented in Table 5.

Table 5: A Comparison of ITTO and Dry Zone Africa’s Criteria and Indicators with those Proposed for the Dry Forests of South Asia

Comparison of Criteria


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 1:
Enabling conditions for sustainable forest management

Criterion 7:
Adequacy of legal, institutional and policies framework for sustainable forest management

Criterion 8:
Adequacy of policy, legal and institutional framework

Criterion 2:
Forest resource security

Criterion 1:
Maintenance and improvement of forest resources, including their contribution to global carbon cycles

Criterion 1:
Increase in the extent of forest and tree cover

Criterion 3:
Forest ecosystem health and condition

Criterion 3:
Maintenance of forest ecosystem health, vitality and integrity

Criterion 4:
Maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem function and vitality

Criterion 4:
Flow of forest products

Criterion 4:
Maintenance and enhancement of production functions of forests and other wooded lands

Criterion 6:
Optimization of forest resource utilization

Criterion 5:
Biological diversity

Criterion 2:
Conservation and enhancement of biological diversity in forest ecosystems

Criterion 2:
Maintenance, conservation and enhancement of biodiversity

Criterion 6:
Soil and water conservation

Criterion 5:
Maintenance and improvement of protective functions in forest management

Criterion 3:
Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources

Criterion 7:
Economic, social and cultural aspects

Criterion 6:
Maintenance and enhancement of socio-economic benefits

Criterion 7:
Maintenance and enhancement of social, cultural and spiritual benefits

Extent of Forest Resources


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 2:
Forest resource security

Criterion 1:
Maintenance and improvement of forest resources, including their contribution to global carbon cycles
Criterion 4:
Maintenance and enhancement of production functions of forests and other wooded lands

Criterion 1:
Increase in the extent of forest and tree cover

- Present area of the permanent forest estate in relation to national goals and targets
- Plantation establishment targets, present age class distribution, and annual planting regimes

1.1 Total areas of forests, plantations and other wooded lands (and their changes over time)

1.1 Area and type of natural and man-made forests
1.4 Forest in non-forest area
1.5 Forest area rich in NWFP species

4.2 Growing stock

1.3 Biomass (and its changes over time)

Health and Vitality


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 3:
Forest ecosystem health and condition

Criterion 3:
Maintenance of forest ecosystem health, vitality and integrity

Criterion 4:
Maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem function and vitality

- Addressed in the management unit level indicators: The extent of vegetation disturbance after logging

4.3 Status of secondary forest

3.1 Areas and percentage of forest (natural and man-made), modified, with the indication of the severity of damage, by such processes as:
fires, storms, insects and diseases, damage by wild animals, damage by domestic animals, competition from introduced plants, drought, damage by wind erosion

4.4 Area and percentage of forest affected by weeds, pests, diseases, grazing, fire, etc.

3.2 Percentage of forest ecosystems without regeneration
3.3 Changes in nutrient balance and soil acidity
3.4 Bush encroachment
3.5 Trends in crop yields
3.6 Percentage of population employed in crop and livestock farming

4.1 Status of natural regeneration
4.5 Maintenance of food chain
4.2 Status of natural succession

Productive Functions


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 4:
Flow of forest products

Criterion 4:
Maintenance and enhancement of production functions of forests and other wooded lands

Criterion 6:
Optimization of forest resource utilization

- Regulation of subsequent harvesting in relation to increment data and net area of production
- Regulation of initial harvesting rates in relation to defined cutting cycles and net area of production forest

4.3 Annual balance between growth and removals of wood products (and its change over time)
4.4 Average annual consumption of wood for energy per capita

6.3 Recorded and unrecorded removals of wood and non-wood forest products
6.1 Aggregate and per capita wood and non-wood consumption

- Comprehensive land-use planning and provision for the permanent estate
- Wood production targets over time from various sources

3.2 Percentage of forest area managed according to a management plan or management guidelines

4.5 Extraction of NWFPs (and its changes over time) of fodder, consumptive wildlife utilization, honey, gum, misc. fruits, roots and edible leaves, medicinal substances, fibers for handicrafts and other uses

Biological Diversity


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 5:
Biological diversity

Criterion 2:
Conservation and enhancement of biological diversity in forest ecosystems

Criterion 2:
Maintenance, conservation and enhancement of biodiversity

- Areas of protection forests and production forests within the permanent forest estate

Ecosystem Indicators
2.1 Areas by types of vegetation (natural and man-made)

See indicator 1.1

- The representativeness of the protected areas network at the current or planned reservation program

2.2 Extent of protected areas

2.1 Area of protected and fragmented ecosystems

2.3 Fragmentation of forests

See 2.1 in the cell above.

2.4 Areas cleared annually of forest ecosystems containing endemic species

See indicator 1.2

2.8 Average number of provenances
2.2 Number of forest dependent species with reduced range
2.10 Population levels of key species across their range
2.11 Management of genetic resources
7.6 Number of forest dependent spp.
7.7 Number of forest dependent species at risk
7.8 Resource exploitation systems

2.2 Number of rare, endangered, threatened and endemic species, including tiger population
2.3 Level of species richness and density
2.4 Canopy cover
2.5 Medicinal and aromatic plants and other NWFPs
2.6 Level of non-destructive harvest

Protective and Environmental Functions


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 6:
Soil and water conservation

Criterion 5:
Maintenance and improvement of protective functions in forest management

Criterion 3:
Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources

· Under forest management unit level criterion
- The availability of engineering, watershed protection and other environmental management prescriptions of production forests

5.1 Areas and percentage of forest and other wooded land managed mainly for protection and/or rehabilitation of degraded lands and relevant other infrastructural works
5.3 Areas of forests and other wooded lands managed for scenic and amenity purposes

See indicator 1.2
See also indicator 1.1

3.1 Soil moisture
3.2 Soil compaction
3.3 Status of soil erosion
3.4 Run off (water yield)
3.5 Soil pH
3.6 Soil organic carbon
3.7 Nutrient status of soil
3.8 Soil flora, fauna and microbes
3.9 Level of water table
3.10 Sediment load

Developmental and Social Needs


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 7:
Economic, social and cultural aspects

Criterion 6:
Maintenance and enhancement of socio-economic benefits

Criterion 7:
Maintenance and enhancement of social, cultural and spiritual benefits

- National revenue and expenditure budgets for forest management

Indicators of economic benefits:
6.1 Value of wood products
6.2 Value of non-wood products
6.4 Share of forest sector in GNP
6.5 Value of primary and secondary industries
6.6 Value from biomass energy

6.2 Import and export of wood and non-wood forest products

6.3 Ecotourism (including hunting and recreation)
6.10 Degree to which social, cultural and spiritual needs are met

7.1 Well being in terms of livelihood, recreation, cultural and aesthetic needs
7.3 Conflict resolution mechanism
7.4 Traditional (Indigenous) Knowledge application

Indicators of the distribution of benefits:
6.9 Employment generation, notably in rural areas
6.11 Benefits accruing to local communities
6.12 Contributions to food security

6.4 Direct employment in forestry and forest industries
6.5 Contribution of forest to the income of forest dependent people
6.6 Degree of economic, social, gender and participatory equity

Legal, Policy and Institutional Frameworks


Dry Zone Africa

Dry Zone South Asia

Criterion 1:
Enabling conditions for sustainable forest management
- Many legal, policy and institutional indicators appear under several criteria and also, under forest management unit criteria. Hence, the ITTO indicators related to Policy issues have not been specified here.

Criterion 7:
Adequacy of legal, institutional and policies framework for sustainable forest management

Criterion 8:
An enabling policy, legal and institutional framework

7.2 Existence of a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework providing for access to resources, alternative forms of conflict resolution and consideration of land occupancy and cultural rights of local population

7.1 Existing policy and legal framework
See also indicator 8.3

7.1 Existence of national forest policy including the integration of forest management in rural land-use planning and development

See indicator 7.1 in the cell above

7.6 Valorization of local expertise, knowledge and technologies
7.8 Existence of an administrative, policy and legal framework for the effective participation of local communities, NGOs and the private sector in forest policy formulation, implementation and monitoring

See indicator 8.4
5.7 Community managed forest areas
7.2 Extent of community, NGO and private sector participation
7.6 Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanisms
7.7 Status of information dissemination and utilization

7.5 Existence of incentives for investments in the forestry sector
7.4 Research and Development capacity

7.3 Investment in research and development
7.5 Forest resource accounting

7.3 Institutional, human and financial capacity to implement the national forest policy and relevant national and international laws, instruments and regulations

7.4 Human resource capacity building efforts

7.7 Existence of measures to facilitate the transfer and adaptation of appropriate technology

See indicator 7.4 above.

The above review and comparison indicate that the criteria in all the three initiatives include the following seven elements:

a) Extent of forest resources;

b) Biological diversity;

c) Protective and environmental functions;

d) Health and vitality;

e) Productive functions;

f) Development and social needs; and

g) Legal, policy and institutional framework.

In spite of this similarity among the various criteria evolved under the processes and those suggested for the dry forests of South Asia, their structure and wordings vary. The similarities will become fewer and fewer as the indicators are compared. Hence, direct comparison of (criteria and) indicators is not feasible in all cases, especially when the criteria and indicators have been developed for:

· different geographic and/or ecological zones;
· different economic, ecological, social and cultural conditions; and
· different levels and purposes.

Conceptually, however, all the initiatives of evolving criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management are somewhat similar.


The preceding discussion related to an overview of the ongoing international initiatives for sustainable forest management and suggestions on possible criteria and indicators for the dry forests of South Asia. This background document would be incomplete without suggesting a suitable strategy and timeframe for the promotion of action at regional, national and local levels in the testing and adaptation of these common criteria and regionally applicable indicators. Lessons can be drawn from the attempts made in these lines, on national and local bases, within India (see Box on the following page).

Need for a Sub-Regional Strategy

Commitments made by countries at UNCED to implement the “Forest Principles” were not legally binding. Yet, interest in the development, testing and implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management has steadily grown. Currently, some 150 countries are developing and implementing criteria and indicators within the framework of a number of presently ongoing regional and eco-regional initiatives.

There is a need to harmonize the ongoing initiatives through exchange of information, knowledge and experiences among ongoing initiatives in order to ensure compatibility and to avoid needless duplication of efforts. At the same time, sub-regional and national peculiarities with respect to forest condition, and socio-economic and institutional parameters, need to be fully appreciated to prevent their dilution in the criteria and indicators framework derived for the sub-region. For example, apart from the seven globally agreed elements of criteria, as duly exemplified by ITTO’s set of criteria and indicators, another (eighth) criterion pertaining to optimization of forest resource utilization has been considered important for the countries of the dry zone of Asia, due to the increasing role that forests play in their national economies. This criterion will address the need to balance forest-related livelihood needs and ecological concerns in the Asian region. Thus, there is a need to devise sub-regional and national strategies and action plans for promoting sustainable forest management.

Decisions in individual countries of this sub-region relating to the final set of national-level criteria and indicators will definitely vary. However, these decisions and activities should complement each other, leading to overall, positive trends towards sub-regional and further on, towards regional-level sustainability. The Sub-Regional Strategy should encourage and assist involved countries to join the sustainable forest management activities and incorporate a review of criteria and indicators developed by ongoing processes. This will help avoid duplication of efforts and wasteful overlaps.

The framework developed as part of the Sub-Regional Strategy will ensure that the national criteria and indicators are mutually compatible and contribute towards a common understanding of issues. It is also necessary to arrive at common concepts and terminology and to draw attention to the increasing need for international dialogue to help facilitate better understanding and compatible actions among countries and regions.

Finally, a Sub-Regional Strategy will help initiate coordinated action for promoting, developing and implementing national and forest management unit level criteria and indicators in the South Asian countries. The countries in the sub-region will also be able to discuss the process of monitoring progress towards sustainable forest management and report needs at national and sub-regional levels. The strategy will help the countries to devise a time-scale for step-by-step follow-up action to the Indian Workshop (November - December 1999), at national and forest management unit levels. The strategy will assure continuity of involvement and contacts among the countries of the sub-region. Along with the Action Plan, it will guide and motivate these countries to devote time and resources to implement the criteria and indicators and commit themselves to achieve this goal through the active participation of all stakeholders in the process.

Indian Initiatives for the Adoption of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management

It was the National Technical Workshop on “Evolving Criteria and Indicators for SFM in India”, organized by IIFM, Bhopal in January 1999, that set the ball rolling for SFM-related attempts in the country. This national-level initiative brought to light the need for a monitoring framework for the sustainable management of the country’s forests, for the benefit of the foresters, researchers and NGOs working in the field of forestry in India. The Workshop recommendations were forwarded to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, which set up a National Task Force, with IIFM as the nodal agency, for galvanizing action in the field of SFM, on a countrywide basis. Two more Sub-National-level Workshops, one each at Dehradun and Bangalore, were planned as an offshoot of the first one, to carry the Bhopal-India Process of SFM further. The other objectives of these Workshops include:

· Ratification of the criteria and indicators for SFM, evolved during the Bhopal-India Process;

· Awareness Generation regarding criteria and indicators of SFM, their application and implementation in field situation; and

· Identifying the Research Needs and their Prioritization for collection and analysis of data related to the testing and adaptation of criteria and indicators for SFM in the country.

One of these Workshops was organized at Dehradun - the Mecca of forestry research and education in India, recently in November 1999. This event attracted researchers, foresters from prominent forestry and allied institutions of the country, like Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Forest Survey of India (FSI), Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and representatives from various NGOs having interest in sustainable management of India’s forests. The Workshop deliberations which focussed on the ratification of previously evolved criteria and indicators for SFM in India and sensitization of the delegates on SFM-related aspect, generated much enthusiasm, interest and ideas about furthering the cause of SFM in the country.

Another, similar workshop has been planned for Bangalore, to tap and sensitize the forestry academia and professionals in the southern part of the country. Since, legislative support is indispensable for the success of any nationwide initiative, a National-level Workshop has also been planned for the Capital city of Delhi. This Workshop is likely to be attended by government representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and other related Ministries of the Indian Government, State Forest Department officials as well as other stakeholders in the SFM process who need to be updated in the field of SFM and their support elicited for smooth implementation of criteria and indicators at the field-level or the FMU-level. Representatives from various national and international funding organizations will also be invited to this Delhi Workshop; to garner financial and technical support for activities related to countrywide criteria and indicators testing.

It is expected that the following SFM-related activities will be accomplished by year 2000 - end, in India:

· Determination of Training Needs for data generation, compilation and analysis;

· Research Prioritization - both short-term and long-term;

· Assessment of Funding Requirements for countrywide criteria and indicators testing and adoption; and

· Initiation of Fieldwork for Testing of Bhopal-India Process’s criteria and indicators for SFM in India: at National and FMU/Forest Divisional levels.

The entire process of SFM-related field data collection, compilation and analysis to develop an implementable framework for monitoring progress towards sustainable management of the country’s forests will require at least 2 years (year 2000 - 2002). This timeframe is justified, keeping in view the vastness and cultural as well as ecological diversity of a country like India. Another three years will then be required to operationalize and implement this framework in all the Forest Divisions (where 1 Forest Division = 1 FMU), of the country. Hence, by year 2005, it is expected that all forest in the country will be under sustainable management regime.

Strategy for Testing and Adaptation of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in the Dry Forests

Drawing from India’s tentative national plan for implementation of sustainable forest management through the Bhopal-India Process, the following initial strategy and timeframe can be suggested. Each country should identify a nodal agency or institution (like IIFM in India), that will plan and coordinate sustainable forest management related activities at identified places or institutions in the country and provide regular feedback to national and provincial or state forest departments. The nodal agency will also identify potential donor agencies for funding various sustainable forest management activities in their respective countries. These preliminary activities related to the sensitization of various stakeholders in forest management and ratification of the common criteria and indicators developed during the November - December 1999 Workshop in India should be accomplished by the end of year 2001. In the next five years (2001 - 2005), an implementable framework of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management will be developed, tested and operationalized.

A detailed activity chart for the preliminary activities is provided below. It is expected that these steps will pave the way for further activities related to the successful testing and adaptation of common criteria and regionally applicable indicators for sustainable management of the dry forests of South Asia.


Preliminary Activities




Time Frame

· Evolving national-level criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management of dry forests in Asia.

Sub-regional initiative and brainstorming for evolving a draft set of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management of dry forests in Asia.

Sub-Regional Workshop, Bhopal, India

Nov 30 - Dec 03, 1999

· Eliciting national support and generating awareness about criteria and indicators and the sustainable forest management process in the country

- Sensitization of academia, government and forestry professionals about sustainable forest management and criteria and indicators framework.

National-level Workshop on Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management of Dry Forests

· Adoption of the criteria and indicators evolved during the regional workshop and the country’s own national workshop
· Determination of training needs and research priorities to guide data collection for testing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.
· Assessment of funding needs for testing and operationalizing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management in the country.

- Awareness generation about the draft set of criteria and indicators evolved for the dry forests in the workshop held in India.

Two (at least) sub-national workshops in the respective countries.

By end of 2001

· Reporting sustainable forest management related activities on a country basis.
· Setting sub-regional priorities and goals for sustainable management of dry forests.

- Monitor and guide the progress of sustainable forest management related activities in the region.
- Draw lessons from initiatives taken by other countries in the sub-region, and discuss common problems and challenges.

End of 2001

Potential Sources of Outside Assistance

Implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management in South Asia will require a considerable work, as the concept of this monitoring framework for forest management activities is new to the region. There is a need for systematic technology transfer related to criteria and indicators. This encompasses techniques as well as methods, technical knowledge and information sharing. Apart from regular technical guidance, financial assistance will be necessary, keeping in view the developing economies and the diversity and extent of forest resources in the South Asian countries.

One of the major constraints that the countries in the sub-region may face in the implementation of criteria and indicators at the national level is a lack of technical knowledge and financial resources. UNEP, FAO, ITTO and other international organizations can support this process in allocating the necessary means to achieve the implementation of criteria and indicators at the national levels. These organizations can be called upon to assist governments of the dry zone of Asia, in the identification of national technical needs, transfer of technology, and development of human and financial resources required for national-level implementation of the criteria and indicators.

It is suggested that FAO provide continuous technical guidance for the sustainable forest management related endeavors of the South Asian countries. Other organizations like the UNEP and CIFOR can also provide support. FAO, in its capacity as UN focal point for action in the forestry sector, continues to closely follow all the ongoing international processes, supports efforts by countries and regions, help disseminate information and knowledge among the processes. These activities are partially facilitated as they are carried out through “national coordinators” who have been identified for each country and/or region, e.g., for the Near East and Dry Zone Africa Processes. Possible activities that FAO can undertake in the Asia region include research and scientific information, technical collaboration and extension. Since FAO’s work and involvement have largely concentrated on assistance to countries at the regional and national levels, it should support and encourage countries to revise the suggested set of national-level criteria and indicators and, in national exercises, to prioritize and decide which criteria and indicators are relevant to the country.

Financial support will be required for the initial activities to sensitize government personnel, foresters, NGOs and other stakeholders regarding sustainable forest management and criteria and indicators, and also for fieldwork and other implementation work. There are a number of international funding agencies already funding forestry-related projects in South Asia, and these should be approached for support in developing criteria and indicators for dry forests. The nodal agency or organization identified by each country of South Asia will aid and monitor the allotment and effective utilization of such funds.

It can be estimated that around US$ 100,000 for larger countries like India and China and US$ 50,000 for each of the remaining South Asian countries, will be required on average, to carry out the preliminary activities (like sensitization in criteria and indicators and the ratification process) between 1999 and 2001. The later stages of data collection, field-testing and implementation for a period of five years (Year 2001 - 2005) will require around US$ 5 million each in the larger countries like India and China, and US$ 2 million each in the other smaller South Asian countries. Overall, the entire process of development, testing, adaptation and implementation of criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of the forests in 10 countries of the South Asian region will require around US$ 26.6 million. It will be essential for the South Asian countries to tap all potential sources of outside funding and explore other innovative fund-raising options for successful implementation of criteria and indicators by 2005.

It should be remembered that sufficient investment in sustainable forest management would be required through both national governments and the private sector. Initially, these funds may not be forthcoming. Hence, individual countries will need to design improved strategies for the implementation of sustainable forest management, including taking steps to establish strong partnerships among the government institutions, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral development agencies, research organizations, local governments and NGOs.


Forests cover one-third of the Earth’s land surface. They are a valuable natural resource as a source of timber, fuel and land, as a carbon repository, as the most critical link in photosynthesis and as ecosystems of immense diversity. Some benefits like carbon absorption derive from the fact that forests grow; while others accrue from forests being cut down for timber, fuel and competing land uses. Forests are one of the most crucial life support systems available to all life forms on earth, including human beings. Over the years, this dependence has not diminished in extent, but has changed in form. As the forests are becoming scarce, the urgency of the situation and the magnitude of this dependence and the role of forests are becoming clearer.

Traditionally, forests were a local, or at most, a national asset, which were often used without global or long-term considerations. Developing countries with forest resources typically view forests as national economic assets whose exploitation is important to their development - a matter of national sovereignty. Developed countries view the same forests as global resources important primarily as global commons to serve as sinks for greenhouse gases or reservoirs of biodiversity. Yet, forests are one of the few, truly renewable resources if managed efficiently. To treat the world’s forests as an asset, which needs to be developed in order to increase the income they generate, they should be carefully managed for sustainable development - both in the developing and industrialized countries. Differing and conflicting views need to be considered and assimilated, and here lies the challenge in meeting the goal of sustainable forest management, as envisioned at Rio in 1992.

The increasing demand for forest products to supply the needs of a growing world population is causing stress on the world’s forests. State forests of South Asia have been intensely sought by development projects, rural people and logging industries. Forest depletion is mainly due to increased population and from placing unjustified demands on the resource. Forest mismanagement is due to deep-seated differences between the local people and the government about whom should control the resource and how the forests should be managed. Unsustainable and destructive forest-use practices are also leading to the ultimate destruction of the forests of the region. Whether at the hands of the local communities, or loggers or foresters, the practice of sustainable utilization and development of forest resources has suffered mainly due to lack of incentives and limited monitoring capacity. As the forests are destroyed, so are the genetic resources that evolved over millions of years. Tropical forests play important and only partially understood roles in shaping our climate and atmosphere. Forest clearing, accelerating since 1860, is now considered a major cause of the global warming trend.

The rate of deforestation in developing countries that house nearly three-quarters of the world’s forests has accelerated during the last 20 - 25 years. Between 1990 and 1995, the total area of forests decreased by 56.3 million ha - the result of a loss of 65.1 million ha in developing countries and an increase of 8.8 million ha in developed countries (FAO, 1999). Though human clearing of forest land is an old process, tropical forest clearing has accelerated at an alarming rate. The primary forces driving deforestation in the region are inappropriate and uncontrolled logging and unsustainable forest use. The ongoing process of extinction has also now increased significantly, with species disappearing at rates as high as 100,000 per year. Ultimately, tropical deforestation threatens human survival.

There is a need to slow the destruction of one of the Earth’s most valuable natural resource. Forest communities are part of the solution to deforestation, rather than only part of the problem. Forest communities in different countries of the region have also shown the willingness to take on forest management responsibilities, if given the chance. Indigenous communities have a wealth of experience and knowledge of forest ecology and sustainable use practices.

Local forest management problems are characterized by the diverse and complex social forces changing the land in each locale. Therefore, there is a need to enable foresters to respond to varying local conditions and needs. Countries in the South Asian region have experienced insurgency movements since independence, aggravated by the discontent of forest communities. As pressures on these lands intensify, the potential for violence grows. Governments are slow to recognize local management capacity and rights; yet, the management ability of tens of thousands of forest communities is apparent in the great diversity of productive, ecologically viable agroforestry systems found throughout the tropics. Policies and procedures are needed as they would smoothen the transition to the decentralized management of local forest lands. Changes leading to increased local forest management in Asia in general, and in drier parts of South Asia in particular, include:

· a proliferation of new mechanisms for the partnership of local communities in forest management administration and benefit sharing (e.g., Joint Forest Management and participatory forest management);

· increased recognition of indigenous knowledge (i.e. ethno-forestry) of the local peoples; and

· restoration of the lands (including forests) of dispossessed communities and individuals.

South Asia’s forests require new and more effective management systems - whose effectiveness needs to be monitored continuously. There is an urgent need for a framework that would guide and evaluate progress towards sustainable forest management. This rationalized monitoring and evaluation framework is provided by criteria and indicators. More than 100 countries across the globe are participating in some major regional or sub-regional processes that embrace the concept of sustainable forest management. For India, being one of the founder members of ITTO, its set of criteria and indicators are very relevant. The Sub-Saharan Dry Zone African criteria and indicators also deserve careful examination. The Bhopal-India Process has benefited from considerations, and lessons learnt from the development of the ITTO criteria and indicators and the Dry Zone African Process. It is time to examine these and others for their applicability to the dry forests of South Asia.

The “Workshop on National-level Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Dry Forests in Asia” highlights the commitment of Asian countries to formulate scientifically sound criteria and guidelines for the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. The set of criteria and indicators evolved and formulated during the workshop deliberations should apply at both regional and national levels, though, in the latter case their application will be dependent on the environmental and developmental policies of each country. At the local or forest management unit level, there may be variations in indicators that can be qualitative, quantitative, or descriptive attributes of the criterion to be assessed and monitored by the country. It will also be possible to assign different weights to these indicators according to the level on which they are applied.

Sustainable forest management has to be assessed at various levels of planning and implementation - from the local forest level (i.e. the forest management unit level) to the national level. Systematic, periodic assessment or measurement of indicators provides the basis for monitoring changes and trends in the levels of those indicators and, ultimately, progress in sustaining the various functions of the forest recognized in the “Forest Principles”.

At the national level, the agreed set of criteria and indicators will provide:

· a tool to assess implementation of the “Forest Principles” and/or of any possible successor or international forest agreement.

· a commonly agreed definition for sustainable forest management in the South Asian Region.

The workshop process will allow representatives from different countries to identify and mutually agree on a basic set of indicators and to track performance against established management objectives. Each group of forest users has its own views and priorities. Sustainable forest management, through it’s the use of criteria and indicators, will serve as a platform to synchronize these views and to develop alternative management systems responsive to diverse and sometimes conflicting national and local priorities. It will help provide ways to simultaneously meet diverse needs of those who depend on forests for their living and cultures, respecting the forest’s central roles as a vital part of the biosphere, a carbon sink, and as a supporter of millions of species.


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