Summaries of current sustainable forest management activities in several countries in Asia with dry forests serve to identify successes and weaknesses in developing and applying criteria and indicators at the national level.
Bhutans first forest management plan, developed in 1964, was mainly focused on timber harvesting. A shift in the countrys forest policy over the decades, encouraged by international organizations such as UNDP and FAO, led to more emphasis on conservation of the environment and biodiversity, and socio-economic aspects of forest development. Bhutan has formulated general principles to guide its forest management plans, but has no yet developed detailed criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.
China, as a member of both ITTO and the Montreal Process, is actively developing national and sub-national-level criteria and indicators in line with these initiatives. In 1995, it established the Sustainable Forestry Research Center (SFMC) within the Chinese Academy of Forestry to lead efforts in developing and testing criteria and indicators for the country. The country is receiving support from UNDP/FAOs Capacity Building, Research and Extension for Sustainable Forest Management Project. Important activities included formulating the Forestry Action Plan for Chinas Agenda 21, and establishing demonstration areas to test and refine the criteria and indicators. A provisional Framework of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in China has also been produced.
Indias early forest management policies supported agricultural and timber production as top priorities, but have gradually evolved to ensure environmental stability and ecological balance, with emphasis on strengthening the countrys protected area network. Some current issues and constraints facing India include deforestation and degradation, increasing demand for forest products, and insufficient financial support. The Indian Institute of Forest Management took the lead in developing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management at the national level, and launched the Bhopal-India Process in 1998. Following a national workshop in early 1999, a base set of national-level criteria and indicators for assessing forest management was formulated. Collaboration with other international organizations, such as ITTO and CIFOR, continued to extend the initiative. Through Joint Forest Management and the National Forestry Action Programme, the Indian government is promoting sustainable forest management, using criteria and indicators as supportive tools.
Mongolia monitors a wide range of basic indicators for forest management, including those related to forest resources protection, exploitation, and rehabilitation. It also uses environmental reporting indicators, including 18 for forestry, that are collected and reported annually by local administrations to the central government. The Ministry of Nature and Environment also tracks a number of forest-related indicators as part of its forestry database for planning and decision-making. Some 27 forestry indicators are monitored for inclusion in the countrys State of Environment Report. Mongolias criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management are still evolving, and testing of these criteria and indicators is needed.
Myanmars new National Forest Policy of 1995 identifies six priority areas for forest development: protection, sustainability, basic needs of the people, efficiency, peoples participation and public awareness. To arrest the desertification process of the Dry Zone (one of the countrys most important agricultural areas), and to focus on development and conservation, Myanmar established a Dry Zone Greening Department in 1997. Based largely on ITTOs criteria and indicators, Myanmar developed a set of national and forest management unit level criteria and indicators in 1999.
Nepal has enacted several policies and strategic plans to guide the countrys natural resources development. The forestry sector underwent a major change from a timber production focus to multiple-use sustainable management. However, the countrys lack of financial and human resources has led to heavy dependency on international organizations and donors. The Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation has identified and developed criteria and indicators at the national level, based mainly on the guidance from CIFOR.
Sri Lankas main forest management objective was wood production in the past, but current management strategies tend towards sustainable forest management for multiple purposes, incorporating input from local communities. The Forest Department monitors a traditional array of basic forestry indicators as part of its regular functions, but to date there has been no concerted effort to consolidate these indicators or to make them consistent with international criteria and indicators processes.
Thailands Forest Research Office proposed a set of criteria and indicators to the Royal Forest Department in 1998. The Royal Forest Department then established a special committee to look into the development and implementation of these criteria and indicators. In 1999, Thailand, together with other ASEAN countries, agreed to adopt ITTOs revised criteria and indicators for sustainable management of natural tropical forests as their common framework, thus prompting Thailand to adjust its original set. Thailand is also conducting ongoing research and development of criteria and indicators at the forest management unit level under a pilot study initiated by the Danish Forest and Landscape Institute, World Bank, CIFOR, and Chiang Mai University.