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Session 7a: Regional implications of national changes — some major infuluences

The outlook for forests and forestry in China

Lu De1

China is the most populous country in the Asia—Pacific region and also one of the fastest growing economies. Social and economic changes as well as activities in the forestry sector will have highly significant impacts on forests and forestry in the region. This paper reviews some of the driving forces for change in China, including forest policies, which will have important implications for other Asia—Pacific countries.

Keywords: China, forestry status and development, forest policy, bioenergy, ecological and social benefits

Factors influencing forestry development in China

Sustainable forestry development in China is not only dependent on the distribution of forest resources and related natural conditions, but also influenced by various factors such as demographic change, socio-economic development, political and institutional context, technological advancement, globalization and so forth.

Demographic change is one of the most influential factors in China's forestry development. Changing demographics alters the demand for forest products, ecological services and functions for socio-economic development. Meanwhile, changes in urban and rural population structures also have negative impacts on the management and maintenance of forests in collective forest areas.

China's rapid economic development lays a sound economic foundation for the protection of forest resources and for ecological improvement. The government is continuing to increase inputs in the forestry sector. In particular, investments in the Six Key Forestry Programs are being re-enforced. Such movements demonstrate the state's strong support of forest ecological enhancement.

Improvement in the public's awareness of ecology and the transformation of perceptions about consumption have advanced the development of community forestry and have had positive and profound influences on forestry development in the new era. In this context, voluntary tree planting by the whole nation has been a highlight.

Continuous improvement of political and institutional contexts affects China's forestry development. The implementation of the "West Development" and the "Revitalization of the Old Industrial Bases" schemes in Northeast China has provided excellent opportunities for sustainable forestry development in the ecologically vulnerable, western areas and in the northeastern areas with centralized distribution of forest resources. The alteration of the public financial system and the implementation of The Real Right Law of the People's Republic of China have provided institutional and legal guarantees for forestry development.

China's forest-related science and technology capacity has grown considerably. However, innovative capacity and a truly holistic approach to forestry science still fall short of thrusts in developed countries and have yet to meet the needs of China's forestry development objectives. Science and technology capacity is still one of the major obstacles to China's forestry development. The continuous development of globalization and regionalization has significant impacts on China's forestry development. Through involvement in international trade and economic groups such as the World Trade Organization and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, China is strengthening international contacts in the field of forestry. And, as China has decreased import tariffs for wood and wood products and reduced non-tariff barriers, export and import trade in wood products has been more active.

Chinese forestry — the status quo

The Sixth National Inventory on Forest Resources (1998—2003) indicated that China had a total forest area of 174.9 million hectares, forest coverage of 18.21 percent of the total land area, gross standing stock volume of 13.6 billion m3 and forest stock volume of 12.456 billion m3. China's forest area and stock volume are growing rapidly with the steady increase in forest coverage. Forest quality is improving to some extent as well as forest structure. Forests that are not under public ownership are developing rapidly with ownership being quite diverse. There has been preliminary establishment of a guarantee system for the protection and development of forest resources and Chinese forestry is beginning to enter a new era of rapid development.

The forest industry is developing soundly, with rapid increases in the production of various forest products, the further improvement of industrial structure and the gradual upgrading of China's status in the world's forest products market; however, China has yet to become an industrial power in the world in terms of forestry. In 2006, total forestry production was valued at 1.06522 trillion yuan, wood yield was 66.1178 million m3, the volume of fibreboard increased and large diameter wood decreased and there was enormous potential for increased wood product consumption. The trade value of wood and wood products continues to grow. In 2006, the total trade value of forest product imports and exports reached US$47.07 billion. Wood products were the chief items. The Russian Federation maintained its position as the principal source for wood imports. Among Chinese forest product imports in 2006, logs, wastepaper and wood pulp were ranked first worldwide and paper and paperboard were ranked second behind the United States.

Forests have important service functions. Forest recreation in China is developing at a considerable pace. In 2006, all the forest parks across China received a total of 213 million visitors and direct tourism income, most of which comes from entrance tickets, reached 11.83 billion yuan. China has also witnessed significant progress in the development of urban forestry. In 2006, the urban green coverage rate reached 32.54 percent and in 2007 the State Forestry Administration (SFA) issued appraisal indicators of green cities.

The inter relationship between forests and water resources has become a burning issue that has aroused much attention. The "Research of Chinese Sustainable Forestry Development Strategies" lays out strategic goals related to forest vegetation development and water protection. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the conservation of biological diversity. By the end of 2006, China had established 1 737 nature reserves of various types and levels with a total area of 120.1339 million hectares, accounting for 12.51 percent of the total national land area. The Chinese Government also endorses the efforts of forestry development to respond to climate change and actively pursues the Clean Development Mechanism on carbon sequestration through afforestation and reforestation under the Kyoto Protocol. In July 2007, the China Green Carbon Fund was founded.

The framework of Chinese forestry policies, legislation and law enforcement is continuously improving and forest-related policy-making, legislation and law enforcement have become more scientific and democratic. Policy changes such as the historic transition of forestry development strategies, the implementation of a classified forest management system, the establishment of compensation systems for ecological forest benefits, the reform of the collective forest property right system and the advancement of modern forestry development in a holistic way have had significant and profound impacts on forestry development.

Forestry status by 2020

According to the Eleventh Five-Year Forest Plan and the National Plan for Long- and Medium-Term Forestry Development issued by the SFA, by 2020, China's forestry will have basically achieved the following strategic goals of establishing: (1) an improved forest ecology system; (2) a developed forest industry system; and (3) a flourishing ecological culture system. Achieving these goals will allow China to enter a new era of sustainable development. The major development indicators include:

Estimates of wood supply and demand by 2020

Owing to improvement in people's standard of living, increases in demands for housing, furniture and paper, increases in overseas demand for Chinese forest products and mutual substitution among wood and other materials (such as steel, plastic and concrete), it is estimated that China's wood demands in 2020 will be 450 to 470 million m3. The supply of commercial timber will be approximately 304 million m3 and the gap between wood supply and demand will be around 150 to 170 million m3. So a shortfall between supply and demand will remain.

China has formulated policies to encourage the development of timber forests. It is expected that the national forest area will exceed 220 million hectares, forest stock volume will be 14.5 billion m3, the area of fast-growing and high-yield forests will be 13.33 million hectares and the average annual forest increment will reach 20 m3 per hectare in 2020. Increases in wood yield will come from improvement in forest quality. The improvement of annual increment and the gross stock volume provides possibilities for increasing the sustainable forest harvest. In addition, thanks to the amelioration of quality seeds and intensive management in the timber forests, the unit yield will increase and more wood can be produced based on a constant forest area. China will reduce demands for roundwood in the future by developing processing and utilization technology, improving the integrated use of wood via economical usage, recycling and adopting other measures to significantly ease the shortfall in wood supply.

Prospects and outlook for the forest industry

China's forest product processing industry will maintain and expand its scale, improve production efficiency, enhance wood utilization and the industry's profitability, upgrade product quality and increase the variety of products. With heightened globalization and China's economic development, the core competitive strength of China's forest product processing industry will shift from a cost basis to integrated competitiveness in technology, scale and costs. Forest product processing enterprises will shift from being pulled by exports and pushed by resources, to being enterprises of their own research and development. The economic growth pattern of the forest industry will change from extensive to intensive. The future development of China's forest industry will be characterized by fast but moderate growth, based on an optimized industrial structure, with improved ecological benefits and reduced energy consumption.

In the future, the state will advance forest development under non-public ownership and encourage various investment groups, including foreign and private capital, to invest in the forestry sector. This will be done to enhance the capital capacity of the forest industry, strengthen enterprises' initiatives in developing new products, increase capital investment in product research and development, re-enforce industrial regulation and gradually form an efficient industrial mode. With the emergence of various trade barriers and the continuous development of forest certification, changes will occur in product mix, patterns and targeted countries that import Chinese forest products. Sourcing overseas forest resources, processing and marketing will be increasingly promoted and the market orientation and internationalization of China's forest industry will be further advanced.

Bioenergy: status quo and prospects

In 2007, the SFA organized the formulation of the National Energy Forest Planning and Eleventh Five-Year Plan Construction Plan for Forest Bio-diesel Raw Material Production Base and successively collaborated with the China National Petroleum Corporation, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) and the State Grid. This resulted inter alia in the construction of (oil energy) forest bases, implementing projects on the industrialization of biodiesel production technology and investing in and operating biological power stations. However, generally speaking, the utilization and development of forest bioenergy in China is still in its initial stage. In spite of early achievements in fields such as biodiesel and wood-based solid fuel and electricity generation, China has not yet entered the stage of practical industrialization.

Priorities in China's bioenergy development in the next 15 years include biomass electricity generation, methane engineering, biological liquid fuels and biobased solid formed fuels. By 2020, the following statistics are envisaged:

Forest bioenergy development will be oriented on market demands; the construction of oil energy forest bases and wood-based energy forest bases will be accelerated.

Importance of forest ecological benefits

Forests are core terrestrial ecosystems and the most abundant and stable form of carbon storage. Forests constitute gene, resource and natural energy banks as well as being water conservatories. They also regulate climate, conserve water, maintain soil and water quality, protect against wind erosion, stabilize sand movement, ameliorate soil and reduce pollution. Thus they play a decisive and irreplaceable role in improving the ecological environment, safeguarding the ecological balance and protecting the "basic environment" for human subsistence and development. Among various ecosystems, forests have crucial and direct effects on the sustainable socio-economic development of China and the improvement of people's lives.

The main direction of China's modern forestry development — at present and for a certain period into the future — is to construct an improved forest ecology system and maximize the ecological benefits of forests. Meanwhile, to complement the continuous acceleration of forest cultivation and re-enforcement of wood supply capacity, China will further strengthen natural forest protection and nature reserve construction, advance key forest programmes and develop forest carbon sequestration and urban forestry to effectively maximize their multiple purposes, functions and benefits and provide abundant biological products and services for society in general.

The social benefits of forests

The social benefits of Chinese forests have the following three facets:

Firstly, forests can meet many of people's needs. The development of urban forests and forest parks has been remarkable under policy-making and legislation on urban forestry; it has improved the environment in settlements and urban areas and provided locations for forest tourism and recreation. Thanks to China's attention to the regulation of relationships between forests and water, the protection of forest and wetland biodiversity and the response of forest development to climate change, forests in China meet people's needs for a sound ecological environment and help to safeguard people's physical health. Meanwhile, the ecological philosophy and rich cultural connotations carried by forests can accommodate public needs for recreation and culture.

Secondly, forest development helps to advance the political construction of socialistic democracy. The development of participatory community forestry and the implementation of pilot participatory land-use planning, forestry programmes and forest monitoring and evaluation, have accelerated environmentally friendly and economically feasible land and forest resource management.

Thirdly, forestry development can improve incomes, especially those of farmers. Reform of the collective forest property right system enables forest farmers to own forest trees and have use rights to forest lands; this is accomplished by distributing forests and mountainous land to households. Meanwhile, China is enhancing ecological protection by implementing the "Conversion of Croplands to Forests" project; simultaneously rural poverty is alleviated by financial and food subsidies and land-use change compensation. The development of small-scale rural forest product processing increases employment opportunities and forest farmers' incomes; forest tourism also increases people's income and develops rural areas.

Opportunities and challenges for forestry during globalization

With the development of globalization and regionalization, the internationalization of China forestry has accelerated and international contacts in various forest-related fields have become closer. The opportunities and challenges for China's forestry during globalization will have increasing impacts on China's socio-economic and forestry development.

Under the framework of a global free trade market, Chinese forest product production and the import and export trades will develop steadily, with increased vitality. Globalization will effectively encourage the Chinese forest industry to develop towards a global market-oriented economy, and to obtain more favourable conditions and preferential treatments in utilizing international resources and markets and developing foreign trade. It can also advance the Chinese forest industry by encouraging acceleration of management system reform and the transformation of enterprise management mechanisms to upgrade the enterprises' technologies and management. Meanwhile, it also facilitates improvement of the investment environment and the absorption of more foreign capital invested in the forestry sector.

Globalization not only brings new opportunities for China to make full use of both domestic and international markets and resources, but also brings challenges to the sustainable development capacity of the Chinese economy and society. In order to survive and develop, after economic globalization, the Chinese forest industry will have to develop professional, intensive and large-scale management as soon as possible, and drive the development of middle- and small-scale enterprises, by deepening the reform of state-owned enterprises, and re-organizing and fostering corporation groups or multinational companies. It will also have to use cutting edge technologies to improve industrial automation and management to ensure it holds and strengthens its share in fiercely competitive international markets. Consequently, new challenges are produced in terms of industrial equipment, product structure, technological levels and newly emerging industries. China will also have to further advance forest law enforcement and execution, promote forest management certification and Chain of Custody certification of forest products and establish and gradually implement the green procurement of forest products to expedite Chinese forestry in an environmentally friendly and sustainable direction.

Measures for harmonious development between society and forests

The Chinese Government has the overarching goal of constructing a harmonious society. In this context, Chinese forestry will strengthen the development of the forest ecology system, the forest industry system and the forest culture system; improve forestry quality; accelerate innovative forestry systems and mechanisms; upgrade and modernize forestry; and advance the construction of an ecologically aware society to realize the harmonious development of both society and forestry.

The main approaches include strengthening ecological enhancement, mainly through afforestation and greening and ameliorating local ecologies; enforcing forest management and protecting and improving forest quality; enhancing conservation and strictly preserving biodiversity; developing the forest industry, including ensuring the provision of abundant forest products and services; and focusing on the enforcement of forest culture and the construction of an ecologically aware society. China plans to construct green cities, advance the development of urban and rural integration, meet society's needs for natural products and achieve the goals of developed production, high living standards and enhanced ecology. China will also emphasize environmental awareness and promote the sustainable development of forests, plantations, wetlands, wildlife, ecotourism and green consumption.

1 Prepared by China's national drafting team for the Asia—Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. Presented by Lu De, Division Chief, Department of International Cooperation, State Forestry Administration, People's Republic of China.

The outlook for forests and forestry in Japan

Hiro Miyazono1

As one of the world's largest importers of traded wood, pulp and paper products, Japan has a major impact on the forests of many other countries. This paper considers the future patterns of the supply and demand for wood and non-wood forest products and the implications of these anticipated trends.

Keywords: forest ownership, forest products, supply and demand, future patterns

The forested area in Japan has remained unchanged for almost 50 years. At the end of 2002, it accounted for 25.12 million hectares, corresponding to 67 percent of the national land area.

Total growing stock had reached 4 billion m3 by the end of March 2002, almost double the figure of 1.9 billion m3 at the end of 1966. It has been on a constantly increasing trajectory since the end of the Second World War. The total annual growth rate is 81 million m3.

There has been a major increase in planted forests. Since 1966 the planted forest area had quadrupled by 2002. Currently, the planted forest area accounts for 40 percent of the entire forest area or 60 percent of the total growing stock.

Major afforestation activities took place at the end of the Second World War; the distribution of planted forests by age class is uneven, with higher distribution of approximately 40-year-old trees. Many of the planted forests still require management such as thinning. These forests will become ready for harvesting when they reach the 50 years of age.

Forests that require thinning account for about 80 percent of the total planted forest area and the promotion of thinning has become a challenge to ensure healthy forests. In this context the government has been promoting effective thinning operations, which are facilitated by high-density forest road systems and cutting edge technology; moreover the wood extracted from thinning is put to good use.

About 30 percent of the forests in Japan are national forests, about 10 percent are public forests owned by prefectures and municipalities and about 60 percent are private forests (there are about 1.2 million owners of forested land exceeding 1 hectare); this situation has remained almost unchanged since 1955. Most of the national forests are found in the watershed areas of remote mountains, especially in the east of Japan where primary forests are widely distributed.

Between 1965 and 1974, there was a strong demand for wood production following a similar trend after 1945; the focus was on coniferous trees such as Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and Japanese cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa). However, with rapid economic growth and globalization, public attention has shifted from wood production to the conservation of water resources, prevention of global warming and other issues; there is strong recognition that forests should not only be sourced for wood production but also the other services that they provide. In this context, the Basic Law on Forestry, enacted in 1964, was revised in 2001; the new Basic Law on Forest and Forestry addresses the multiple services inherent in the forests and the sustainable and sound development of forestry.

With regard to forests as carbon sinks for mitigating global warming, the Cabinet Council developed the "Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan" in response to the enactment of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005. In order to achieve Japan's 6 percent reduction goal, the national plan aims to secure forest absorption of approximately 47.67 million tonnes of CO2 and approximately 3.8 percent of the total emissions of the base year.

About 90 percent of the 200 000 forest management bodies (including owners of forested land exceeding 3 hectares) that have conducted silvicultural activities and harvesting in the past five years are based on private operation. Private bodies engaged purely in the forestry business account for only 2 percent.

The current stumpage prices of cryptomeria and its logs are about 20 and 50 percent lower respectively than the 1990 level; these prices have been declining over the long term. On the other hand, logging industry wages have risen by about 20 percent since 1990. The profitability of forestry has been devastated and motivation for forestry management bodies has diminished.

Forest owners' associations have been playing a major role in forest management in Japan because they hold approximately 70 percent of the area of private and public forests. There were 846 forest owners' associations at the end of 2005; they have been merging in wider areas to reenforce business infrastructure.

The number of workers engaged in forestry has been decreasing due to stagnation in forestry production, from 90 000 persons in 1995 to approximately 50 000 persons in 2005. Also, one-quarter of the complement of forestry workers is over 65 years and the ageing population is increasing. Since 2003, the number of newly employed workers has amounted to approximately 2 000 persons annually, an increase of 50 percent; this is due to new measures being introduced for forestry workers.

The demand for wood both for construction purposes and paper manufacture in Japan has continuously risen owing to economic expansion in the high growth period of the 1960s. While the demand for wood was 45.28 million m3in 1955, it reached a record high of 117.58 million m3 in 1973. After 1970, the demand for wood exceeded 100 million m3 until 1997, excluding 1975 and the period from 1981 to 1986. However, since the turn of the century, the demand for wood, pulp and chips has been decreasing. It has been below 90 million m3 since 2002 and reached 85.86 million m3 in 2005.

The supply of domestic wood has been declining after the peak of 52.74 million m3 in 1967, and it has been below 20 million m3 since 1998. Self-sufficiency in wood was below 50 percent in 1969 and below 20 percent in 1999. Recently, domestic wood supply has started to increase after bottoming out at 16.08 million m3 in 2002; it amounted to 17.18 million m3 in 2005 and has recovered to the 20 percent level for the first time after seven years. The increase is mainly due to wood and plywood needs in construction. Plywood in particular accounts for approximately half of the increased volume of the total.

The share of imported wood has been almost constantly expanding since the start of full-scale imports to Japan in the 1960s, which reached a record high of 89.48 million m3 in 1996. The supply of imported wood has increased to 80 percent of the total demand for wood in Japan. The type of imports and exporting countries has changed according to the resource situation, economic circumstances and the industrial policies of exporting countries. In this regard, imports have changed from logs to wood products. The volume of imported wood products exceeded the volume of imported logs in 1987; imported wood products have exceeded 80 percent since 2003.

In the context of sawnwood products and laminated wood, the demand for laminated wood from Europe is increasing, while the share of wood from the United States is decreasing. Laminated wood and plywood imports from China have expanded.

A precut system in which wooden joints are processed in the factory was introduced after 1985; this reduces the costs induced by the shortage of carpenters. Precut post and beam construction increased from 8 percent in 1990 to 79 percent in 2005. Concomitantly, the demand for laminated wood and dry material has been increasing.

Further, the use of laminated wood for posts in post and beam construction increased from 2 percent in 1993 to 45 percent in 2002. Moreover, kiln-dried wood production for construction increased from 13 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2005. Wood for construction accounts for 80 percent of the shipped wood in Japan; housing construction has a strong influence over the demand for wood.

The Forests and Forestry Basic Plan based on the Basic Law on Forest and Forestry addresses the next 20 years to attempt the overall and systematic promotion of measures concerning forest and forestry. The current Basic Plan, which was revised in 2006, focuses on the following three components that consider changes in forest and forestry conditions:

In order to advance the management of forests and forestry, a target has been set to properly maintain and conserve forests and use their multiple services for the next 20 years and to attempt the judicious use of wood supplied through proper forest maintenance.

Another goal is to maintain the current level of 25.1 million hectares under mixed conifer and broad-leaved forests until 2025.

For domestic wood supply, the aim is to increase the level to 23 million m3 until 2015 and to 29 million m3until 2025; the target for total wood demand is 91 million m3until 2015.

1Assistant Director, International Forestry Cooperation Office, Forest Agency of Japan. E-mail:

India's outlook on forests: the regional context

Ram Prasad1

In the past 150 years forestry in India has relentlessly marched towards forest depletion but latterly has exhibited slow but steady recovery. The burgeoning population has put tremendous pressure on forest resources, resulting in a widening gap between production and consumption. Forest and tree cover is estimated at 23.6 percent against the national goal of 33 percent by 2012. India's roundwood production in 2006 was estimated to be about 300 million m3; 225 million m3 (85 percent) is the estimated share of fuelwood and 70 to 80 million m3 is industrial roundwood including poles and small timber for rural households. The supply from natural forests is about 12 million m3 (and is declining); 31 million m3 comes from farm forestry and other "trees outside forests". About 3 million m3 was officially imported (2006) in the form of logs leaving a gap of 25 million m3. Much of this gap is addressed through "unrecorded" (unregulated) removals over and above the annual allowable cut (AAC) based on the net annual increment of growing stock.

India is a net importer of forest products, mainly logs to feed processing units followed by paper and paperboard and recovered paper. The chief suppliers are Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and some African and South American countries. Imports of logs and other processed products are facilitated by a favourable tariff regime. The import bill increased from US$722 million in 1990 to US$1.3 billion in 2000 and US$3.1 billion in 2005. This trend is likely to grow further with increasing demand and decreasing forest productivity. Greater investment in education, housing, infrastructure and economic growth is likely to generate additional demand for wood products worth US$3 to 4 billion. This will have to come from imports, at least for the time being.

India has a population of 1.12 billion with about 64 percent between the ages of 14 and 64, which is likely to grow to 68 percent by 2020. National demographic growth is estimated at 1.38 percent per annum, reaching 1.25 billion by 2020. The dependency ratio, which is the share of population either younger than 15 or older than 64, will decline steadily.

Soil erosion and flooding, illegal logging and tiger poaching are some of the transboundary environmental impacts. Afforestation and reforestation projects offer the best opportunity for carbon trade. SAARC and the Asia—Pacific Forestry Commission may be good platforms to get a favourable inclusion in the next round of negotiations.

The Forest Rights Act is an important domestic policy that influences the forestry situation; foresters feel that it may result in the removal of forest lands for agriculture. Agriculture, energy and health policies place greater emphasis on growing trees, bamboo and medicinal plants outside forest reserves. These developments could create more wood resources and generate employment but dependence on wood imports is likely to grow with growing economic development (a GDP of 9 percent and above).

Keywords: wood production and trade, non-wood forest products, fuel head loads, carbon sequestration, domestic policy


Just as the pressure of a growing population and other related developments have resulted in loss of forest cover, rapid changes have also taken place in the overall socio-political environment of forestry. New interest groups and stakeholders have entered the scene, NGOs now play a strong role in policy-making and social needs and cultural values have risen in relative importance; conventional forest management for timber alone has been questioned. At the same time new and larger markets have emerged for forest products; other public policies, such as environmental protection and rural development, strongly influence forest management and process steering is now considered more important than regulation (Chandrasekharan 2004).

With the transition to an open society, democratic institutions and a market economy, a need has evolved for completely new policy and legal frameworks for addressing forestry's contributions to agriculture, conservation and environmental protection. The public perception of forests has also moved from a largely sectoral view towards a global perspective that encompasses forests as economic resources, social space and the human environment. Thus, sustainable forest management needs to be determined largely by local circumstances. However, the disagreement on how forests are to be used and managed continues in spite of growing public perception of forests as a common and holistic heritage.

Achieving sustainable levels of forest harvests, improving management practices, enhancing forest conservation, providing forest-derived benefits to a broader range of people and offering non-distortionary incentives for individuals and other private sectors to encourage the development of forest resources are all elements of a viable forest management system. Sustainable forest management is an enormous task involving funds, human resources, materials and management. Governments have increasingly awarded the responsibility of sustainable forest management to a broad range of stakeholder institutions, particularly to local communities, NGOs and civil society institutions; they are gradually learning to become involved in forest management-related decisions and benefit sharing. Production and utilization of forest goods and services and conservation of forest resources are the most important aspects of the modern forest management paradigm; they cover wood products (from natural and human-induced forests), non-wood forest products (NWFPs), recreation and environmental services.

The anticipated changes in population and wealth

Currently India has an estimated population of 1 120 million, about one-sixth of the world's population. About 32 percent of the population is less than 14 and 62 percent is between 14 and 64. National demographic growth is estimated at 1.33 percent per annum, reaching 1.33 billion by 2020 and 1.40 billion by 2025. The population density is 336 persons/km2 (compared to 48 as the world average) and it is estimated to grow to 405 by 2020.

Sixty-eight percent of the population (740 million people) lives in rural areas where the demographic growth rate is estimated at 1.43 percent per annum. About 600 million are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods — 200 million are to some degree forest-dependent and 90 million in this group are Scheduled Tribes who are particularly forest-dependent. The population of farmers is ageing rapidly and the next generation is more focused on opportunities for urban employment. About 88 percent of the 89.4 million Indian farmers have landholdings in the range of 0.1 to 2 hectares (Blaser et al. 2006).

With a GDP per capita of US$4 032 (2007 estimate), India is a middle-income country. There are major and increasing differences between the rich and the poor, the north and the south and the urban and rural areas of the country. It is estimated that about 300 million people exist on US$1/day; this remuneration is gradually increasing with more employment opportunities through a number of development programmes with assured employment for the rural and urban poor. The bulk of the rural population (300 to 500 million) lives in forest-fringe areas and is largely dependent on forests to supplement meager income and food. It is coincidental that most of the poor live in forest areas — generally due to lack of infrastructure development and accessibility. Dense forest areas are also infested by extremism particularly in northeast and Central India.

The urban-based economy has grown rapidly through investment in industries and services that are increasingly being liberalized from government control. Currently (April—June 2007), the economy has been growing at 9 percent. The projection for the current fiscal year is 9.5 percent. This high rate of economic growth contrasts with poor employment figures. During 2004 and 2005, almost 58 percent of the population was unemployed. However, employment opportunities are gradually increasing with rising investment in rural infrastructure, intensification and diversification of agriculture, agro- and farm forestry, rural development, the "greening" of India and the creation of biofuel energy plantations. The Planning Commission of India has estimated additional employment of about 7.5 million persons through different forestry programmes during the 11th Five Year Plan, operational from April 2008. As the situation develops, unemployment in rural and urban sectors is likely to decline appreciably. India is set to have the second highest national availability of skilled labour in the world, the first being Denmark (Figure 1). This trend will further drive economic growth and require more goods and services.

Figure 1. National availability of skilled labour worldwide

India's diverse economy spans subsistence village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries and many services. Services are the major source of economic growth (51 percent of the GDP, 2006 estimate) accounting for half of India's output with less than one-quarter of its labour force. About three-fifths of the workforce is in agriculture and forestry (contributing about 20 percent of the GDP, 2006 estimate, including approximately 3 percent from forestry and primary wood use and the NWFP industry); this has led the Indian Government to articulate an economic reform programme that includes developing basic infrastructure to improve, inter alia, the lives of the rural poor and boost economic performance. The government has focused on agriculture in the forthcoming 11th National Development Plan (NDP), including improvements to irrigation, a reform of agricultural extension services and greater emphasis on rural technology. There is no special mention of the forest sector but intensive agriculture has built-in components of agroforestry and farm forestry, wasteland development, forest regeneration, medicinal plant cultivation and development of bamboo resources. All these development activities are expected to generate an additional 7.5 million jobs (Planning Commission 2002) and are envisioned to be important elements of rural and agricultural landscapes (Table 1).

Table 1. Projected employment generation in forestry, medicinal plants and bamboo development (per year)

Forestry schemes Employment potential
Forestry and agroforestry 4 million (1.5 million, Task Force on Greening India)
Medicinal plants 1.1 million (0.5 million, Task Force on Medicinal Plants [2002])
Bamboo development 2 million (1.5 million, Ministry of Environment and Forest, [2002])
Total 7.1 million (3.5 million)

Note. Estimates in parentheses are by members of the Special Group.

In 2005, the government liberalized investment in the civil aviation, telecommunications and construction sectors. The economy has posted an average growth rate of more than 7 percent in the decade since 1994, reducing poverty by about ten percentage points. India achieved about 8.5 percent GDP growth over all sectors in 2006, significantly expanding the manufacturing sector. Commercial rates for borrowing by State Forest Development Corporations were up to 18 percent a few years ago but are currently around 8 percent; subsidized agricultural credit is at 7 percent. Further economic deregulation is likely to help attract additional foreign capital and lower interest rates.

Favourable demographics

The huge and growing population is a fundamental socio-economic and environmental problem, but could also be a major asset. The most recent UN Special Report on the Rights of Food (September 2006) stated that over the past ten years, falling agricultural wages, increasing landlessness, rising food prices and environmental degradation reduced foodgrain availability to 152 kg/capita, 23 kg less than the 1990s. The poorest 30 percent of the households lives with less than 1 700 kilocalories/day/person (the international minimum standard is 2 100 kilocalories) and spends 70 percent of its income on food. However, the situation is changing rapidly with more employment opportunities being made available to all classes of society, whether educated, semi-skilled or unskilled. This has been possible due to huge investment in rural areas, decentralized governance and several domestic policies to mainstream the rural poor into improved socio-economic development programmes. According to UN, DBR (2004) demographics will be favourable (Figure 2) as the dependency ratio, which is the share of the population either younger than 14 or older than 64, will decline steadily. Thus the Indian population will largely be composed of younger people with more and varied preferences for goods and services. This will require more forest products.

Figure 2. Favourable demographics for India

Urbanization and its impact on agriculture and forestry

India's rapid urban-based modernization is taking some agricultural land out of production and using it for roads, urban infrastructure and housing. Agricultural production is falling and farmers are ageing. Farmers may be forced back against and across the boundaries of notified forest, unless intensified agriculture also reaches the poorer farmers. However, it has to be realized that about 50 percent of the geographical area is under agriculture. The bulk of this area is currently under marginal cultivation practices due to adverse conditions (e.g. steep slopes, erosion, salinity) and lack of investment, technological accessibility and labour supply. However, the situation is likely to be reversed due to increasing investments in improving irrigation potential; the development of roads, markets and technology is likely to make farming more intensive (Planning Commission 2006). Farms are gradually becoming mechanized (for example more tractors and harvesters are being added every year) as village youth, particularly the educated and skilled, is migrating to urban areas for better employment opportunities. Organic farming and diversification are also becoming popular. These positive developments will compensate for the loss of agricultural land due to growing urbanization and economic development (Blaser et al. 2006).

The forest legacy

Factors that are now recognized globally to be important goods and services provided by forests were not specifically discussed in the 1988 policy as some of the issues have come into focus only recently. Some of the most relevant and globally recognized goods and services are perennial supplies of clean water, reduction in atmospheric pollution, genetic conservation of plants related to staple crops, bioenergy crops and carbon sequestration; and intangibles such as conservation of both species diversity and habitat, aesthetic landscapes and cultural features as well as associated tourism and public health through forest-based recreation. Some of these factors are marketable, some have potential markets. Forest Resource Accounting (or any natural resources accounting, such as compilation of total economic value) was also not considered relevant at the time of the formulation of the 1988 policy (Blaser et al. 2006). However, this has become very important to give due credit to the forestry sector for its contribution to the national economy as well as in the contribution of linked sectors (agriculture, fisheries, tourism, health, rural development, energy etc.).

Forest resources

The latest State of forest report (SFR) for 2003 (the 2005 report will be released shortly), indicates a notified forest area of 77.47 million hectares (or 23.6 percent of the country's area), comprising 39.99 million hectares of reserved forests, 23.84 million hectares of protected forests 2 and 13.62 million hectares of unclassified forests. Satellite data indicate total forest and tree cover of 67.83 million hectares, disaggregated into 5.13 million hectares of very dense forests (8 percent of the total, above 70 percent of canopy density), 33.93 million hectares of moderately dense forests (50 percent of the total, 40—70 percent of canopy density) and 28.78 million hectares of open forests (42 percent of the total, between 10 and 40 percent of canopy density). The details of different categories of forests are summarized in Table 2. Out of the total forest area, about half of the area is under natural forest cover, the rest (about 33 million hectares) being planted forest. This latter area includes farm forests, agroforestry sites and agro-industrial tree plantations outside the notified forests as defined above.

Table 2. Forest cover in India

Class Area (km2) Percent of geographic area
Forest cover
Very dense forest 51 285 1.56
Moderately dense forest 339 279 10.32
Open forest 287 769 8.76
Total forest cover* 678 333 20.64
Non-forest cover
Scrub 40 269 1.23
Non-forest** 2 568 661 78.13
Total geographic area 3 287 263 100

Source: FSI (2003).

Of the plantation area of 32.6 million hectares, nearly 45 percent is accounted for by fast growing (and short rotation) species of eucalyptus (increasingly, the clonal varieties), acacia, casuarina and in subtropical areas, poplar. Teak accounts for about 8 percent; pines and other conifers (in temperate zones) about 10 percent. The remaining area is occupied by other broad-leaved species (including rubber). About 25 percent of all woodlot plantations (8 million hectares) are those planted in private and communal land. Fifty percent of all plantations raised since 1980 are in an agroforestry (or at least non-notified forest) environment, with varying intensities of management.

Trees outside forests

In India, village woodlots, windbelts and shelterbelts, agroforestry and farm forestry plots and small block and line plantations currently cover over 6 million hectares. There are also other sources of wood from trees outside forests (TOF), including rubber, coconut, cashew, mango and other estate crops. These sources together produce about 50 percent of India's wood supply and probably an equal or larger share of India's NWFPs. Many small private nurseries meet the local demand for tree seedlings.

India is estimated to have between 14 224 million (Pandey 2007) and 24 602 million trees (Prasad et al. 2000). The Forest Survey of India assessed 2 680 147 million TOF, equivalent to 3.04 percent of the country's geographical area. According to this assessment, the number of trees per hectare varied from a low of 6.9 trees/hectare in the western plains to a high of 20.8 trees/hectare in the west coast (the national average being 12.3 trees/hectare). This assessment is based on trees in patches of 1 hectare and larger found on private and community land outside the notified forest boundaries.

In terms of household income, Central Indian upland rice fields provide illuminating economics (Vishwanath et al. 2000). The farms often have an average of 20 Acacia nilotica trees per hectare, of one to 12 years of age. Small farms have more tree density. In a ten-year rotation, these trees provide a variety of products, including fuelwood (30 kg/tree), brushwood for fencing (4 kg/ tree), small timber for farm implements and furniture and NWFPs such as gum and seeds. Thus, trees account for nearly 10 percent of the annual farm income — distributed uniformly throughout the year — more than in rice monoculture of smallholder farmers with less than 2 hectares of farm holding. A combination of acacia and rice in traditional agroforestry systems has a benefit—cost ratio of 1.47 and an internal rate of return of 33 percent at a 12 percent annual discount rate during a ten-year period.

In the northeast Indian State of Meghalaya, guava- and Assam lemon-based agrihorticultural agroforestry systems (i.e. farming systems that combine domesticated fruit in comparison to farmlands without trees) yielded 2.96- and 1.98fold higher net return respectively, in comparison to farmlands without trees. The average net monetary benefit for guava-based agroforestry systems was Rs20 610/hectare (US$448) and in the same context for Assam lemon Rs13 788/hectare (US$300). Such systems are very useful livelihood improvement strategies in the rainfed agriculture of Meghalaya (Bhatt and Misra 2003). Similarly, the net preset value for the different agroforestry models on a six-year rotation in Haryana varied from Rs26 626 to 72 705/hectare/ year (US$625 to US$1 820).

Scientific forest management

Scientific forest management in India is over 150 years old. In order to manage the forests, working plans (management plans) for forest divisions have been prepared since 1905. Currently an estimated 75 percent of forested area has working plans and is being managed according to their provisions. The Supreme Court of India has now made it mandatory to prepare a working plan before harvesting operations. It also requires state forest departments (SFDs) to commit irrevocable funds for regeneration so that the working plan prescriptions are implemented in toto.

Company—community (farmer) partnerships

The 1988 Forest Policy stipulated that forest-based industries should not look towards committed raw material supply from natural forests but should instead develop their own captive plantations; this has been tested by various paper and pulp industries. However, in view of certain regulations and restrictions (a land ceiling act and restriction on felling and transit) it was not feasible for the industries to raise captive plantations. However, they took the initiative and tried various approaches to form partnerships with farmers.

The various schemes stated under the company—community (farmer) partnerships have made two major achievements. First, they have generally popularized the concept of tree farming; second they have directly contributed to the cultivation of many commercial trees on private lands. These plantations give a mean annual increment of between 20 and 58 m3/hectare/year and the farmers are able to earn a net profit of Rs50 000 to 1 50 000 (US$1 250 to 3 750) four years after planting.

Non-wood forest products

NWFPs in India play an important role in the social and traditional life of millions of forest-dependent people, particularly tribal and landless groups, women and other rural poor. Today they contribute over 75 percent of the total forest export revenue in India. Nearly 400 million people living in and around forests depend on NWFPs for sustenance and supplementary income. NWFPs contribute significantly to the income of about 30 percent of the rural people. More than 80 percent of forest dwellers depend on NWFPs for basis necessities. Collection of NWFPs is the main source of wage labour for 17 percent of landless labourers and 39 percent more are involved in NWFP collection as a subsidiary occupation (Prasad and Phukan 2000). The high potential of NWFPs in India should be rationally used through scientific approaches aided by research, acquisition of technology and people's participation.

In order to alleviate the pressure on collection (in the wild), a National Medicinal Plants Board has been set up with a mandate to assist the farmers to take up the cultivation of medicinal plants for supply to pharmaceutical industries and to supplement their income. In view of the growing popularity of natural products and expansion of medicinal plant cultivation, export potential in this sector is highly visible. The Planning Commission of India (2002) estimated that through export of the Indian System of Medicine (ISM) and bamboo products, India could annually generate US$10 billion.

Forest production and trade

Production of wood and wood products

According to Chandrasekharan (2004) India harvested an area of 3.011 million hectares (including farm forests and forest plantations) to produce about 319.498 million m3 of wood, with an average of 106 m3/hectare. Wood production accounted for 6.9 percent and the remainder (93.1 percent) was fuelwood.

According to another assessment, India's roundwood production in 2006 was estimated to be 300 million m3, of which 25 million m3 (85 percent) is the estimated share of fuelwood and 70 to 80 million m3 industrial roundwood, including poles and small timber for rural households (Blaser et al. 2006). Production from natural forests was assessed at 12 million m3. A further 31 million m3 came from farm forestry and other TOF. In 2006, 3 million m3 was officially imported, mostly as logs. Hence there is a gap between consumption and supply of timber of about 25 million m3 (conservatively estimated). It is possible that a considerable part of this gap is from unregistered sources, such as home gardens and small timber logs and poles. However, it is most unlikely to be as much as 25 million m3. Other possible sources might include a large trade in illegally harvested timber imported from Myanmar and/or illegal, unrecorded or unlicensed harvesting in forest areas. The production of different types of wood and wood products is given in Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3. Wood production and utilization in India (1990—2000)

Particulars Year Type of wood products Quantity in '000 m3 and wood pulp in 000' tonnes
Roundwood production ('000 m3) 1990
  273 687
319 498
Industrial roundwood production ('000 m3) 1990
  24 406
22 188
Processed products 2000 Sawnwood
Panel products
Wood pulp
7 900
1 590
Export 2000 Roundwood
Panel products
Wood pulp

Import 2000 Roundwood
Panel products
Wood pulp
2 100

Sources:FAO yearbook 2003; ITTO Annual review and assessment of world timber situation, 2005.

According to ITTO (2004) India's tropical proportion of total imports in 2003 was 91.1 percent tropical logs, 38.3 percent sawnwood, 56.3 percent veneer and 45.7 percent plywood.

Table 4. Production of timber products ('000 m3)

Item/year 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Roundwood/logs 13 500 13 500 13 500 13 500 13 500
Sawnwood 6 800 6 000 6 000 6 000 6 000
Veneer 55 235 246 258 258
Plywood 1 300 1 600 1 760 1 936 1 936

Sources: FAO yearbook 2003; MoEF 2004; ITTO Annual review and assessment of world timber situation, 2005.

Declining productivity of natural forests

The prospects of any increase in production from natural forests and forest plantations of SFDs does not look bright as there are visible indications of continuing forest degradation. This is reflected in reduction of dense forest area as well as annual production. Even if all the forest areas, as required by the orders of the Supreme Court, are covered by management plans, the likelihood of any substantial increase in forest production appears grim. Madhya Pradesh in Central India (including Chhattisgarh which was created in 2000) accounted for about 25 percent of India's total forest areas and has generally very productive dry/moist deciduous forests. However, a study (Okhandiyar, personal communication, 2007) on production in the last 50 years has shown a downward trend (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Production of timber and fuelwood in the last 50 years in the state of Madhya Pradesh

Source: Okhandiyar, personal communication, 2007.

In order to address rampant forest degradation and consequent environmental deterioration a number of SFDs have also imposed a logging ban, particularly in ecologically fragile areas. Because of environmental considerations, the Supreme Court has also introduced logging bans in a number of states since 1996. These include all the northeastern states and areas above 1 000 metres (except for phytosanitary felling) and where working plans have not been prepared or revised after expiration. In addition, where working plans are in place, irrevocable financial allocation for regeneration must be made prior to timber harvesting. Another ruling is that new sawmills cannot be built within 5 kilometres from a forest boundary.

Logging bans and their impacts: national and regional context

The logging bans imposed by many SFDs have often been detrimental to sustainable forestry development and consequent reduction in wood production. Instead of improvement in forest conditions, they have encouraged illegal logging and unsustainable harvesting over and above the annual allowable cut (AAC). India's AAC, based on the net annual increment of growing stock from all sources (public and private), was only 127 million m3 in 1994, but actual production was estimated to be 294 million m3. FAO (1997) estimated that in South Asia, removals were about 50 percent above the net increment.

Other consequences have been timber theft and timber smuggling. Blaser et al. (2006) concluded that although imports of unprocessed logs from other tropical countries are rising rapidly this volume is not nearly sufficient to close the increasing gap. In Andhra Pradesh, the SFD confiscated a total of 18 000 m3 of teak timber. In Madhya Pradesh this figure exceeded 24 000 m3. These two states admit that this quantity may be only 10 percent of the total timber theft taking place. The conservative estimate for timber theft is US$72 million. Due to reduced domestic production, the import bill rose from US$722 million in 1990 to US$1.3 billion in 2000 and then to US$ 3.1 billion in 2005.

Sometimes restricting logging in one country simply transfers the problem to other countries. China, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam all greatly increased their forest product imports after they restricted logging. This is fuelling illegal logging and destructive timber harvesting in many neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and even some African countries.

Wood consumption/demand

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF 2005) has made an assessment of the future demand of different types of wood products (Table 5) also reported by Parvez (2005).

Table 5. Wood demand assessment (in million tonnes)

Industry 2005 2010 2015 2020
Pulp-based 14.32 21.92 34.67 45.86
Panel products 14.69 18.82 23.96 30.53
Durable wood 44.99 54.26 64.37 76.61
Total 74 95 123 153

Source: Parvez (2005).

The projected demand has not been properly researched and is based on policy changes in the related sectors. For example economic development is driving the housing industry. Presently the bulk of the requirements is being met from liberal timber imports. Similarly, the demand assessment also does not take into consideration the recent hike in investment in the education sector from the present level of 2 percent of the GDP to 6 percent. Presuming a modest proportion of only 10 percent of this allocation required for paper, furniture and other forest products, the projected demand for imports or domestic production will have to be multiplied several times. Growth of the manufacturing sector and the current pace of infrastructure development for urbanization and rural development will further require wood and wood products, which probably has not been considered in working out the demand assessment.

Major paper pulp industries in India have planned expansion. Some of this expansion is going to be met from agro- and farm forestry and other TOF sources but initially, until the new plantations from these sources start yielding raw material, these industries will have to meet their requirements from imported paper and pulp, maybe until 2015.

According to available figures, industrial roundwood consumption in 2005 was 27.8 million m3, which is projected to increase to 38.1, 49.8 and 63.1 million m3 in 2010, 2015 and 2020 respectively (C.T.S. Nair, personal communication, 2007). It is also interesting to note that the import bill for forest products has risen from US$722 million in 1990 to US$1.3 billion and US$3.1 billion in 2005. With the present trend, the import bill may be much higher in coming years as there is no alternative source of domestic supply.

Wood energy production and consumption

Fuelwood collection ("head loading") is traditionally uncontrolled and unmonitored. About 75 percent of all forest production is said to be fuelwood, mostly collected from natural forest. Rights to fuelwood collection are (usually) for deadwood. Because collection is not properly monitored, there does not seem to be any check that green wood, including branches and larger dimensions, is not being harvested as well. Although most of the 225 million m3 of fuelwood is consumed domestically by the forest-dependent poor, including tribal people, sale of fuelwood is also a major source of income.

Fuelwood accounts for about 50 percent of the total fuel consumption in rural India (Pandey 2002). Fuelwood consumption varies with relative availability and is high in forested areas. In urban areas during the last 20 years, there has been a substantial shift in energy consumption. The use of so-called traditional fuels has halved in relative terms and been replaced by commercial energy sources; animal dung still accounts for about 90 percent of energy consumption. The most plausible explanation of the contrasting views on fuelwood use is that due to the high prices for commercial energy there is less transition to commercial energy sources. Leiwen and O'Nell (2003) concluded that incomes have to rise substantially in order to see a reduction in biomass use for energy for India.

Against the general belief that commercial energy would be too expensive to replace fuelwood energy, the former is gradually becoming popular with middleclass rural populations and urban low- and middle-income categories. The number of skilled and semiskilled persons is increasing (Figure 1) and therefore these households are switching from fuelwood use to commercial energy.

Even among the urban poor (lower income groups) the use of electric rods and LPG is gradually increasing (Table 6). With the improving network of LPG distribution agencies to semi-urban and rural areas, the consumption of fuelwood is likely to fall. Unskilled households are gradually finding that fuel head loading is economically less attractive due to time and energy and return. Employment in other work gives them better employment conditions and more remuneration. The declining trend of fuelwood use is likely to continue. With the intensification of agriculture through expansion of agro— and farm forestry as well as diversified farming (horticulture, medicinal plants etc.), the availability of fuelwood in rural areas may also increase. This may lead to improved forest regeneration as unregulated extraction of fuelwood has been attributed to the absence of natural regeneration.

Table 6. Percentage distribution of households in various income groups using different sources for hot water

Income class


Electric rod

LPG (liquid petroleum gas)

Rural low


Rural middle


Rural high


Urban low


Urban middle


Urban high


Source: National energy map for India: technology vision 2030.

Trends and projections

This discussion makes it amply clear that India will have net trade deficit with respect to all types of industrial and processed wood as is also clear from the data on trends and projections summarized in Tables 7 to 12 ( 15 June 2007). There is every likelihood that the next decade (2010—2020) may be devoted to the production of wood outside forests. To facilitate this outlook, federal and state forest departments have to proactively create favourable legal and economic conditions for tree growing. As the most common species preferred by tree farmers are eucalyptus, casuarina, poplars and Dalbergia sissoo, production may commence four to five years after planting. This may gradually help to reduce wood imports. The exporting countries may also impose restrictions against the export of raw logs. This may also necessitate greater efforts for increasing domestic production.

Table 7. Trends and projections for industrial roundwood production, consumption and trade (m3)

  1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Production 24 407 000 24 879 000 18 761 000 23 192 200 31 771 390 41 497 604 52 596 316
Imports 1 334 608 355 580 2 231 900 4 648 407 6 367 932 8 317 355 10 541 867
Exports 42 860 5 867 3 100 7 337 10 051 13 128 16 639
Consumption 25 698 748 25 228 713 20 989 800 27 833 270 38 129 270 49 801 831 63 121 543
Net trade -1 291 748 -349 713 -2 228 800 -4 641 070 -6 357 881 -8 304 227 -10 525 228

Table 8. Trends and projections for sawnwood production, consumption and trade (m3)

  1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Production 17 460 000 17 460 000 7 900 000 14 789 000 18 200 842 22 651 475 27 517 280
Imports 18 655 7 400 9 400 72 018 97 562 128 737 162 930
Exports 35 201 17 000 10 200 14 745 13 025 13 903 14 829
Consumption 17 443 454 17 450 400 7 899 200 14 846 273 18 285 380 22 766 309 27 665 381
Net trade 16 546 9 600 800 -57 273 -84 538 -114 834 -148 101

Table 9. Trends and projections for wood-based panel production, consumption and trade (m3)

  1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Production 387 300 395 700 349 000 2 553 700 2 924 009 3 394 893 3 864 119
Imports 9 705 12 500 86 100 240 149 311 908 462 726 637 258
Exports 15 248 41 800 11 400 205 880 183 267 231 344 286 550
Consumption 381 757 366 400 423 700 2 587 969 3 052 650 3 626 274 4 214 827
Net trade 5 543 29 300 -74 700 -34 269 -128 641 -231 382 -350 708

Table 10. Trends and projections for paper and paperboard production, consumption and trade (tonnes)

  1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Production 2 185 000 3 025 000 3 794 000 4 183 100 7 770 174 11 289 651 15 656 291
Imports 124 100 216 800 605 200 1 193 005 1 462 434 2 079 115 2 859 112
Exports 8 700 10 700 28 610 309 300 400 911 686 835 1 071 071
Consumption 2 300 400 3 231 100 4 370 590 5 066 805 8 831 697 12 681 931 17 444 333
Net trade -115 400 -206 100 -576 590 -883 705 -1 061 523 -1 392 280 -1 788 042

Table 11. Trends and projections for wood pulp production, consumption and trade (tonnes)

  1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Production 829 000 950 000 1 335 000 2 052 600 3 153 466 4 581 819 6 353 986
Imports 66 340 172 600 143 200 359 395 586 177 851 684 1 181 100
Exports 0 3 600 16 000 13 561 31 462 45 712 63 393
Consumption 895 340 1 119 000 1 462 200 2 398 434 3 708 181 5 387 791 7 471 694
Net trade -66 340 -169 000 -127 200 -345 834 -554 715 -805 972 -1 117 707

Table 12. Trends and projections for recovered paper production, consumption and trade (tonnes)

  1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Production 227 000 400 000 850 000 850 000 1 509 259 2 167 230 2 983 060
Imports 385 200 197 900 919 000 1 758 199 2 771 105 4 026 269 5 583 560
Exports 0 600 0 2 254 28 775 16 165 0
Consumption 612 200 597 300 1 769 000 2 605 945 4 251 590 6 177 335 8 566 620
Net trade -385 200 -197 300 -919 000 -1 755 945 -2 742 331 -4 010 105 -5 583 560
Net trade -385 200 -197 300 -919 000 -1 755 945 -2 742 331 -4 010 105 -5 585 537

Source: 15 June 2007.

Transboundary environmental impacts

Soil erosion and floods

The Indian subcontinent is characterized by low forest cover, dry conditions and fragile ecosystems. In almost all South Asian countries marginalized rural people depend heavily on forest-based subsistence that results in forest degradation and low productivity. The depletion of forest cover in catchments is leading to excessive soil erosion, silting of reservoirs and floods. Due to degradation of major drainage systems in catchments, floods are causing havoc in Bangladesh, parts of India and Pakistan. These impacts affect irrigation and hydroelectric power generation. Many rivers and their tributaries pass between two countries and this is often the source of intercountry conflicts. These conflicts are likely to intensify as fish production, irrigation and energy generation are linked to the socio-economic well-being of people in all countries of this subregion.

Forest fire and air pollution

Widespread forest fires and consequent air pollution and haze are generally not present in South Asia. Community forestry in Nepal and Joint Forest Management in India have contributed to forest fire control. In coming years these efforts are likely to intensify in other countries as well and therefore the possibility of forest fire becoming a transboundary issue is very low.

Illegal logging

Illegal logging is common in most countries in the Asia—Pacific region. It is generally recognized that the unexplained gap between demand and supply in India is met by illegal logging from Myanmar. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the extent of illegal felling in different countries, its practice cannot be denied. Even in India the extent of illegal logging is enormous (possibly in the range of US$1 to 2 billion annually). Even if illegal logging is controlled by effective people's participation, patrolling and other management practices, India's dependence on timber imports could be drastically reduced. Illegal logging is not only a country-specific problem but has regional and international ramifications.

Tiger poaching

Declining tiger populations in India have caused concern among wildlife conservationists and forest bureaucracy in India. International conservation NGOs and individuals have been advocating and assisting tiger conservation but despite these efforts tiger populations continue to decline. The latest tiger census in India indicates that there are fewer tigers in India now than there were in 1972 when conservationists and the government entered high alert, banned hunting, set up Project Tiger and took steps to bring tigers back from the brink of extinction. At that time it was believed that there were 1 827 tigers; the figures released on 23 May 2007 revealed 435 tigers across the four central Indian states which historically have been home to 33 percent of the total population. Thus there are approximately 1 300 tigers in the country; some tiger biologists believe the actual number may be less than 1 000, perhaps even as few as 800 — this is a national crisis and is also an indicator of the state of tiger habitats (the forests). The biggest threat to tiger populations is the growing popularity of tiger bone-based medicines (MoEF 2004).

Carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration and natural forest management

The greenhouse gas emissions inventory for India shows that it had a net marginal source of 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 for 1994. Estimates of CO2 emissions and removals are constrained by high uncertainty of activity data and emission factors required to adopt the new International Panel on Climate Change's inventory methods suggested in the Good Practice Guidance. A study of the impact of climate change on forest ecosystems shows that the majority of the forest grids are likely to undergo change in vegetation types; future climate will not be optimal for the existing vegetation type. There is a need to adopt a dynamic climate impact model for the forest sector. There are data and modeling limitations for assessing climate change impacts at the regional level. A macroeconomic assessment of the mitigation potential in India has highlighted the existence of large baseline afforestation and reforestation (Ravindranath and Murthy 2007). A higher carbon price incentive is necessary to bring in large potential areas under afforestation.

Carbon sequestration and agroforestry practices

Agroforestry practices have the potential to store carbon and remove atmospheric carbon dioxide through augmented growth of trees and shrubs. This is promising for carbon sequestration in India (Pandey 2007). There are also strong implications for sustainable development because of the links with food production, rural poverty and associated consequences for the environment. Agroforestry may provide a viable combination of carbon storage with minimal effects on food production. Policies that promote agroforestry will help to increase the carbon density of sites relative to traditional agriculture, thereby providing climate change mitigation benefits. Carbon sequestration in Indian agroforests varies from 19.56 tonnes of carbon/hectare/year in Uttar Pradesh to a carbon pool of 23.46 to 47.36 tonnes carbon/hectare/year above- and belowground in the tree-bearing arid agro-ecosystems of Rajasthan. The average sequestration potential in agroforestry has been estimated to be 25 tonnes carbon/hectare/year over 96 million hectares of land in India. The cost of mitigation in the case of agroforestry may be US$1.6/tonne (carbon) in India (Pandey 2007).

Subregional context of carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration, storage and substitution are important economic issues for the South Asian region. The Southeast Asia Association for the Regional Cooperation (SAARC) may play an important role as consolidator of forestry carbon with regard to the Clean Development Mechanism and industrial development.

Major domestic policies

A number of domestic policies are going to contribute to the sustainable development of forest resources in the country; these include:

The Land Ceiling Act, if relaxed, may promote growth of TOF reserves. Similarly the Supreme Court order of 1996 will institutionalize working plan preparation, updating and greater investment in forest regeneration. The Right to Information Act will ultimately result in greater transparency and accountability. Joint Forest Management will extend to community forest management and this may minimize anthropogenic pressure on forests. A network of commercial energy supply points in peri-urban and rural areas will promote the use of commercial energy and thus there may be less pressure on natural forests for fuel head loads. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act will ensure greater flow of funds to forestry and provide assured employment to the rural poor, thus reducing their dependence on forests for livelihoods.

A number of policies are intended to fuel further economic growth and may adversely impact ecosystem integrity — the National Livestock Policy, Mineral Policy and recently passed Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2006. The latter act is feared to exacerbate forest clearing and hunting. There are other pressures which could be called side-effects of economic development and may need holistic approaches to contain them. There may be pressure to meet local demand because of socio-political compulsions. Today there are more movements to address human rights and privileges than for conservation of forests and environment. It is hoped that with the intensification of the climate change debate and concomitant human impact, forest conservation and the environment may receive more attention from the general public.


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Ravindranath, N.H. & Murthy, I.K. 2007. Climate change and forests. Paper presented at TIFAC—IISA Workshop at IIC Delhi 25—27 March 2007 (Centre for Sustainable Technologies and Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore 12.

UN, DBR. 2004. United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs: world population prospects. Revision 2001.

Vishwanath, S., Nair, P.K.R., Kaushik, P.K. & Prakasam, U. 2000. Acacia nilotica trees in rice fields: A traditional agro forestry system in central India. Agroforestry Systems, 50: 157—177.

1 Independent consultant, 06, Aranya Vihar, Chuna Bhatti, Kolar Road, Bhopal (M.P.) 462 016, India E-mail:

2 Protected forests mainly include forests expropriated from zamindars (landlords with large holdings often held in absentia) in the 1950s. Officially all protected forests are in an administrative process later to be declared as reserved forests.

The future of forests in Asia and the Pacific: an Australian perspective

Adam Gerrand1

Australia's national forest policy sets out objectives and strategies to achieve ecologically sustainable forest management. Long-term access and wood security for industry have been achieved through ten Regional Forest Agreements among national and state governments, which aim to balance conservation values and production. Progressive expansion of conservation reserves has meant a decline in the area for wood production. In contrast, there has been a rapid expansion of plantations as a result of government and industry initiatives to treble plantation area to 3 million hectares nationally by 2020.

Australia's demand for forest products is expected to grow with economic and population growth. The timber industry is significant in some rural regions and is the second largest manufacturing industry with a turnover of A$18 billion annually. Substantial private investment has increased processing capacity and plantations already contribute over two-thirds of timber production. Further rapid expansion of plantation hardwood production is projected to come in line in the next five to ten years and there are proposals for several pulp mills for domestic processing or increasing exports.

Australian community attitudes about forests are changing from an historical priority for wood production towards recognizing a broader range of values and increasing environmental concerns. Climate change, especially its impact on water availability, is a major issue. Policy issues of interest to Australia include market access and trade, carbon trading opportunities and valuation of environmental services provided by forests and bioenergy.

Keywords: forest management, benefits and policy, Australian Government initiatives, climate change

Land use and forestry in Australia

Australia is sparsely covered by forests but because of its large size (768 million hectares or approximately 5 percent of the world's land mass) it has the sixth largest forest area and has about 4 percent of the world's 3.9 billion hectares of forests. The largest land use in Australia is agriculture with low intensity grazing on the drier inland areas covering over half of the continent. Forests cover 19 percent of the land and vary from open woodlands where rainfall is above 500 mm, to tall eucalypt forests around the south and east coasts and rain forests in both temperate areas in the south to tropical moist closed forests in the northeast (MIG 2008). Of the total area, 147 million hectares are native forest (Figure 1a), dominated by eucalypt (79 percent) and acacia (7 percent). Forestry as a land use (mostly areas of public land where wood production is permitted) only covers around 9.4 million hectares (less than 2 percent of the country, Figure 1b). Plantation forests make up only a small proportion of the area (1.9 million hectares), comprising, 1 million hectares (53 percent) of softwood species (mostly pines) and almost 900 000 hectares (46 percent) of hardwood species (mostly eucalyptus).

Figure 1. a) Location of Australia's forests showing major forest type; b) major land-use zones

About 70 percent of Australia's forests is effectively under private management, with 44 percent on leasehold land and another 26 percent on land either held under freehold private title or managed by indigenous communities (Table 1). Multiple-use public forests, where timber harvesting is permitted under conditions, cover 9.4 million hectares, or about 6 percent of Australia's total native forest estate, down from 11.4 million hectares in 2003.

Table 1. Forest ownership in Australia

Tenure/ownership Area (hectares) Percent of total forest
Leasehold forest 65 132 000 44
Multiple-use public forest 9 410 000 6
Nature conservation reserve 22 371 000 16
Other Crown land 10 862 000 7
Private land (including indigenous) 38 099 000 26
Unresolved tenure 1 524 000 1
Total native forest 147 397 000 99
Plantations — all tenures (2007) 1 903 000 1
Total forest 149 215 000 100

Note: Native forest areas estimated as at 2006; plantation areas as at 2007.

There are notable differences in the ownership of different forest types. Of the drier, sparse woodland forests that make up almost 100 million hectares, half are on leasehold land, a quarter on private land and the remainder on a mix of tenures. The open forest types are distributed more or less evenly between public and private owners, while closed forests, comprising rain forest and mangroves, are mostly on public land.

Forest management

The overall forest legislative and governance processes in Australia are of a high standard and their development and enforcement have been increasing over the years. In 1992, the Australian Government and state and territory governments issued a National Forest Policy Statement (Commonwealth of Australia 1992), which set out a vision and goals, objectives and policies for Australia's forests. The roles and responsibilities for forest management are shared between the national government and states and territories. Forest planning, Codes of Practice and on-the-ground management activities are the responsibility of the states and territories.

A key element of the approach adopted in the 1992 National Forest Policy Statement involved the negotiation of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) between the Australian and state governments. RFAs are 20-year plans for the conservation and sustainable management of areas of Australia's native forests; they are designed to provide certainty for forest-based industries, forest-dependent communities and conservation. They use a science-based methodology to determine forest allocation for different uses and forest management strategies and are the result of substantial scientific study, consultation and negotiation covering a diverse range of interests. Ten RFAs have been negotiated bilaterally between the Australian Government and four of the six state governments covering almost all of the major wood production areas. The Australian and Tasmanian governments are also party to the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement, which complements the Tasmanian RFA. The protection provided by Australia's RFAs is given legal status through the Commonwealth Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002.

One of the key objectives of the RFA process was to use a set of nationally agreed criteria for the establishment of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system in Australia based on defined criteria to protect forests in nature conservation reserves or in other land managed under prescriptions to maintain the identified values. As a result of the development of the CAR system and due to decisions taken by national and states and territory governments through the RFA process the area of forest in conservation reserves has increased substantially over time and now totals 23 million hectares (16 percent of the total forest area, Figure 2). There have also been significant increases to the informal reserve system on both public and private land. The representation of forests in Australia's forest reserve system is substantial, with most of the broad forest types protected above the targets recommended by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). There have also been significant increases in the informal reserve system on both public and private land. There is a notable trend of increasing reservation on private property by a variety of secure legal mechanisms, such as covenants, but the full extent of this trend is not well-documented.

Figure 2. Change in percentage of forest in formal nature conservation reserves on public land and multiple-use public forest available for wood production, 1997 to 2007

Australia's forests benefit society

Australia's forests provide a wide range of benefits to the community. For the people and communities living and working in forested regions, forests have significant social values (Brooks et al. 2001). They provide the basis for employment, services and recreation and can have cultural importance to indigenous and non-indigenous communities (DAFF 2008; MIG 2008).

Communities benefit significantly from the income from wood production from native forests and plantations and subsequent processing of wood into sawntimber, wood panels and paper products, which contribute more than 1 percent to Australia's GDP. Total direct employment in wood and wood product industries increased marginally between 2001—2002 and 2006—2007. Total national employment in businesses dependent on growing and using timber in 2006 was estimated to be about 120 000 people (MIG 2008).

Australia produces about 96 percent of its sawntimber needs with around 27 million m3 harvested annually. Twenty-two percent is supplied from hardwood (mostly native forests) and 78 percent from softwood plantations. Eucalypt plantations provide a relatively small volume of around 2 million m3/ year of wood mainly for export for papermaking; small quantities are starting to be processed into value-added solid products. The softwood pine plantation industry is well-established and mature with a fairly stable replanting and harvest rate of around 15 million m3/year. The eucalypt plantation estate has been expanding rapidly and production from plantations is rapidly increasing. Supply is forecast to reach nearly 14 million m3/year by 2010, about four times the volume harvested in 2005 to 2006. Average supply beyond 2010 is forecast to be about 14 million m3/year.

The major export destinations for Australia's forest products in 2005/2006 included Japan (47 percent), China (Hong Kong S.A.R.), Taiwan P.O.C. (24 percent) and New Zealand (21 percent). Main forest exports and values in 2005 to 2006 included: woodchips (A$839 million), paper and paper products (A$593 million), panel products (A$151 million) and sawntimber (A$118 million).

However, despite increased timber production, Australia still has a continuing significant trade deficit in timber products. In the five years to 2006—2007, the volume of logs harvested from native forests declined by 14 percent while the volume of logs harvested from plantations increased by 28 percent; the gross value of logs harvested from native forests and plantations both increased by 11 percent. Turnover of Australia's forest product industries increased in real terms by about 10 percent to more than A$19 billion between 2000—2001 and 2005—2006. The trade deficit in timber products increased from A$1.7 billion in 2001—2002 to A$1.9 billion in 2006—2007 (MIG 2008).

There are an estimated 1 100 sawmills with 75 percent producing high-value, small volume hardwood products. The remaining 25 percent are softwood sawmills, many at world-scale levels of production, producing timber mainly for structural manufacturing. Australia also has 22 mills producing pulp or paper products and 30 veneer and board mills.

While less than 1 percent of Australia's area of production native forests are harvested annually, in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in value-adding to timber from native forests. For instance, 60 percent of grade one timber from jarrah forests is being value-added and the Western Australian forest industry has agreed to raise this to a 70 percent minimum for the next round of contracts (DAFF 2008).

Although forest management is well-regulated in Australia, some forests are still the subject of considerable community debate. There has been concern over the harvesting of native forests, especially old-growth forests for many years by conservation groups (Keenan and Ryan 2006). Concerns are expressed with regard to the expansion of the plantation estate and the proposed development of new wood-processing infrastructure, including pulp mills. While these developments may have significant employment benefits, there are also community concerns about their perceived social and environmental consequences, especially on stream flow in times of drought and changing climate (MIG 2008).

Total forest product consumption is increasing due to population growth (for example to build 150 000 houses/year and 4 million tonnes of paper consumed). However, consumption per person is decreasing slightly overall (from 1.2 to 1 m3 per year).

Certification of forests and wood products is rapidly expanding in Australia under two schemes: the Forest Stewardship Council (mostly plantations) and the Australian Forestry Standard (includes native forests and plantations).

Trends over the past ten to 15 years

There has been a steady expansion in volumes harvested from softwood plantations so the market share of wood production from pine plantations has increased and overtaken hardwoods from native forests (MIG 2008). The increase in areas of native forest in conservation reserves has led to a reduction in sawlog production from native forests and greater recovery of woodchip material. However, the production of hardwood from plantations is set to rapidly expand supported by private investment and tax arrangements.

There has been significant new capital investment in softwood processing (panels, sawntimber and pulp and paper) and some increased value-adding of hardwood, particularly for appearance markets. Many smaller mills, especially hardwood, have been facing increasing competition with production costs rising and there have been numerous closures and amalgamation for industries to remain competitive.

The overall outlook for Australian forestry is positive — Australian forestry strengths

There is a stable supporting forest policy for both industry and conservation in the National Forest Policy. Governments at both national and state levels have put in place numerous policies and actions that create macroeconomic policies that are generally supportive to forestry resulting in investor confidence in the sector. There is good governance and law enforcement is effective.

Australia's strong research and development expertise has also assisted innovation and helped with high quality forest resource information through computing, remote sensing etc. Infrastructure such as roads, bridges and communications technology is generally of a high standard, which helps businesses to operate efficiently.

Softwood log and pulpwood production is stabilizing with sawlog production of between 9 to 12 million m3/year and pulpwood production of 5 million m3/year. In contrast, rapid increases in plantation hardwood production (especially for pulpwood) are expected to climb from 3 to 14 million m3/year by 2010. Hardwood sawlogs from plantations take longer to grow and while there is an expected increase to 1.8 million m3/year this will not happen until at least 2030 and is not expected to make up for the reductions from native forests.

Emerging issues


Australia has a modest population growth; it is expected to rise from 20 million in 2004 to between 23 and 25 million by 2021. This, combined with reduced consumption per person and some substitution away from forest products, may lead to a slowing of domestic per capita demand for forest products. This may be offset by the potential for increased demand from Asian countries that will provide opportunities to assist the future growth of Australian exports to the region. Continued market access for Australian forest products is also an important issue that the government has been working on diplomatically and in policy forums in recent years.

Education and training

Australia has high quality educational institutions, although there are concerns that the number of graduates is not sufficient to meet demand in professional forest management positions. Skills' shortages and labour to operate increasingly sophisticated machinery are also emerging as potential limiting factors in the ability to expand production.


While certification is growing and has been rapidly taken up by numerous forest managers, there are still issues that need addressing. Among these are the lack of clear regional or global standards, which is a potential barrier that makes it hard for industries to efficiently operate and for consumers to be confident in what they are buying.

Climate change

Climate change issues, including increased risks of pest and diseases, have the potential to create difficulties and challenges for forest managers in the future.

Climate change is almost certain to change the frequency and intensity of fires in Australia. Fires may become hotter and more frequent in the southeast of the country where many large contiguous forest areas exist. This may affect their ecological processes and change species composition or even in some cases the viability of a particular plant or animal species may be affected with consequent impacts on biodiversity.

Climate change may have indirect effects on water quality and quantity. Forested catchments help maintain water quality — but the quantity may diminish if rainfall decreases or if fires increase the disturbance and create large areas of younger, more water-demanding forests.

On the positive side, climate change may present opportunities for forest owners if payments for environmental services become feasible and attractive enough so that the forest owners may be paid for services such as carbon storage in forests. Australian national and state governments have tested a range of market-based approaches for payment for environmental services that are still under development, but showing some promise and opportunities to influence private landowners' practices and enable them to participate in environmental projects.

Government initiatives on forest-related themes

Global Initiative on Forests and Climate

In March 2007 the Australian Government launched an A$200 million Global Initiative on Forests and Climate to advance the global effort to tackle climate change and protect the world's forests. The initiative is aimed at supporting new forest planting, limiting the destruction of the world's remaining forests and promoting sustainable forest management.

Asia—Pacific Forestry Skills and Capacity Building Programme

Announced at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in September 2007, the programme will assist countries in the region to increase forest management expertise and improve the carbon sequestration performance of forests. The programme will include:

Reducing illegal logging and proving legality and sustainability

The Australian Government released a policy on illegal logging and trade in illegally sourced timber on 3 October 2007. The policy includes voluntary measures combined with bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Key summary points

Current status and challenges for Australia

Key drivers of change

Summary and outlook for 2020


Brooks, K., Kelson, S. & Tottenham, R. 2001. Summary of Australian Regional Forest Agreement social assessments and a recommended assessment methodology. A report prepared for the Forest Industry Branch, AFFA. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.

Commonwealth of Australia. 1992. National Forest Policy Statement. A new focus for Australia's forests. Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). 2008. DAFF Web site, forest benefits page: Accessed on 15 July 2008.

Keenan, R.J. & Ryan, M.J. 2004. Old growth forests in Australia. Conservation status and significance for timber production. Science for Decision-makers. Canberra, Bureau of Rural Sciences. 8 pp.

Montreal Process Implementation Group (MIG). 2008. Australia's state of the forests report 2008. Canberra, Bureau of Rural Sciences. 250 pp. publications/sofr2008.htm

Parsons, M., Frakes, I. & Gavran, M. 2007. Australia's plantation log supply. Canberra, Bureau of Rural Sciences. 48 pp.

Parsons, M., Frakes, I. & Gerrand, A. 2007. Plantations and water use. Science for Decision-makers brief. Canberra, Bureau of Rural Sciences. 8 pp.

1 FAO Forestry Department, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome 00100, Italy. Tel: +3906 5705 3063 (office). Mobile: +39 340 6999 650. Fax: +3906 5705 5137. E-mail:

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