7.1 India in 2010 without substantial policy changes
7.2 Indonesia in 2010 without substantial policy changes
7.3 Thailand in 2010 without substantial policy changes
Based on the lessons learnt, it is now possible to propose changes required in different elements of forestry to bring about devolution up to the village level and get them implemented. A computer model developed by the Oxford Forest Institute forecast that the Asia Pacific countries that now supply more than 80% of all tropical hardwood exports will supply just 10% a decade from now (Miller and Tangley 1991). The situation thus is desperate. Before we propose the required changes, we like to construct a few more of glimpses of the likely state or forests in 2010 in some of the countries of the region if the present state of affairs in forest management are continued. The glimpses will reinforce the need of urgency of changes.
We believe that the scenario of forestry in India under the present method of management including promotion of JFM will be dismal. We are arriving at this conclusion based on the ongoing process of deforestation. The forests at the present time are composed of three categories in density terms. The first category is the closed forests which now occupy only about 50% of the total forests. The second category is the degraded forests which are the outcome of mismanagement of the closed forests. A large part of this degradation is caused by the local people whose rights on forest products have been withdrawn over time. The third category is the blanks in the forest area which is the final product of mismanagement of degraded forest.
In the event that the present centralized management methods continue, this deterioration of closed forest to degraded and later to blanks will continue unabated. In the next thirteen years reaching to 2010, India will have in its hand more blanks, more degraded forests, and less of closed forests.
One can argue against the above analysis by stating two counterpoints. The first counterpoint is that Indian forest departments have afforested on an average 0.4 million ha per year in the 80s and have since increased it. The second counterpoint is that the private farmers continue to plant a large number of trees annually in the farm land. The present figures are not known but it is not less than an additional half a million ha per year.
The argument against the first counterpoint is that the government plantations are monospecific and are not substitutes of the natural forest lost annually. And these plantations are subjected to destruction just as the closed and degraded forests are. So the net forest area added therefore is much less than what is planted. The farm trees, also monospecific, however have much higher survival.
Taking the above two situations namely one of destruction and the other of accretion, we tend to picture the situation in 2010 compared to present, as one of India turning into a sparsely wooded country with more of farm trees but much less of natural forests. The increase of farm trees will not however match the loss of natural forests. Supposing a lapsed time film is made from today to 2010, the viewer will see the picture of Indian tropical and subtropical multitiered forests moving away from the forest zones losing many trees on the way to a monospecific (Eucalyptus, Acacia, Dalbergia etc.) one tiered wooded country around the village farms and in the village fringes. Small patches of closed forests will continue to exist, possibly in better condition than now. These are the few well protected national parks that are frequented by tourists and treated as prestigious units by the forest department. Some degraded forest areas will improve to look like multitiered natural forests. These are some of the JFM degraded forests of 1997. The sites of the most of the closed forests of 1997 will be however degraded forest with little of second and shrub canopy and of large blanks undergoing further depredation and soil erosion. This change in forest distribution and forest quality will bring on its wake further flood damages, landslides in the mountains, filling up of dam reservoirs, shortage of timber for local needs and industries. Enormous gaps between supply and demand of Industrial and local woods will emerge and import of wood for industry will increase.
The forest department will be further de-concentrated and strengthened in numbers. At the moment there are about 120,000 forest department staff (Palit, 1996) which will further increase. There will be more specialised posts, more specialists, more data about various aspects but little used and improved research but on esoteric subjects that may not have sufficient relevance to the main problems namely dwindling natural forests.
The pace of planting will increase but will not be able to reduce the gap between deforestation and afforestation. Plantation technology will improve particularly in seed and seedling quality but vandalism and theft will not allow improvement of plantation yield.
The employment in forestry will increase because of increased pace of afforestation but the total production of timber and other products will have a downward trend. The price of timber will therefore continue to increase, as at present, at a rate faster than the inflation rate of the country.
Concern for forests will increase and the lobby of the environmentalists and social activists will be stronger. There will be more legislators than now talking about green subjects but still not be strong enough to make any breakthrough. Forest tourism will increase at a rapid pace and the young generation will be more nature conscious.
The forests in Indonesia are getting degraded because of the number of problems the most important of which is management and cutting through concessionaires and centralized management and monitoring. The concessionaires are responsible for illegal overcutting, damage to trees not due for fellings by wrong felling methods, compaction of soil using heavy machineries thus disturbing natural forest regeneration and soil erosion due to construction of temporary roads. The other major problem is that the poor people from the neighbouring areas, townships and other islands often encroach upon these harvested forest areas, resort to cutting of the residual trees, and start practising shifting or marginal cultivation. The transfer of population from Java to outer islands to reduce the pressure on Jaya and to improve the economic situation of the transferred people based on the resources of the islands is not only not a solution of population management but also a sure method of further destruction to forest. Transfer of population has not succeeded in Nepal where it was done to more people from the mountains to the Terai, in Amazon where the people of the North-east Brazil to the Amazon basin was tried. In fact the transfer process unleashes uncontrolled migration to the new place, a situation now found in Iran Jaya of Indonesia. It is true that the government and the World Bank which were supporting the project have both stopped providing any further incentive to the people for migration, but the conditions for damage to forests has been created and it is now difficult to undo it.
If the present systems of centralised forest management, Indonesian forests by 2010, like the present Thailand and Philippines, will be substantially deforested and degraded. The present deforestation in Indonesia is estimated at 1.212 million per. a rate of about 1% of the forest area of the country. With growth of population, the rate will further increase.
Indonesian government has classified 143.5 million hectares of its forests into four types namely protection, nature conservation, conversion and production forests (Wansadidjaja, 1993). The latter is about 64.9 million hectares, best part of which are allocated for production by concessionaires. A substantial part of the deforestation comes from these areas which means that the pace of deforestation in the production forests is more than 1% rate and will be accentuated. Another substantial damage is likely in the outer Islands which have taken the maximum load of transmigration of about 1.5 million between 1979 to 1986 alone (Miller and Tangley, 1991). This number is besides the larger numbers who have migrated on their own initiative when the support for migration was cut back.
The total staff that oversees the 143.5 million hectares of its forest is 50,000 (Fox. 1993) and it is likely that more staff will be placed over time to introduce stricter regulations on the concessionaire operation. It is also possible that the forest organisation will be deconcentrated as far as practical. However, as much as it can be strengthened or deconcentrated, the possibility of the staff looking after thousands of square kilometres of forest with its borders under pressure for encroachment, shifting cultivated areas with low fallow cycle by swidden cultivators and marginal farmers consisting of 30 to 40 million people and forest damages in thousands of hectares of concessions areas by contractors after quick profit, is an impossible task to fulfil. Thus, the likelihood of any reduction in rate of deforestation and improvement of forest quality is minimal by the present method of control and management. It is unfortunately similar to a situation where a few policemen are trying to stop a large number of enemies trying to wreck the peace and stability.
Still further attempt to control by centralization is noticed in the government's role in the protection and nature conservation area. These two categories together make about 49.1 million hectare, about 33 % of the total forest area. The reservation of the areas to such a large extent is indeed a very impressive decision but what it gains in fact is questionable. Many of these areas are inhabited by the indigenous and other people who have no legal rights on these areas and have thus no stake in their preservation. One can surmise how they will treat the forests when the forest department has little scope and capability of vigilance over most of these areas.
Thailand has been the most rapid deforestation in the last 40 years. Its forests in 1961 occupied about 27 million hectares and by 1989 has come down to 14.3 million which is only about 28% of the country. The National Forest Policy wants the forests to be about 40% of the land area of the country. The actions taken by the country so far to remove further threat to the forests include cancellation of the contracts with the concessionaires, stoppage of green felling in the forests, some decentralization to involve the villagers in developing and protecting forests and active endeavour to enact a Community Forestry Act.
Stoppage of felling, do most often, just the opposite of what is intended. It is impossible to strictly enforce stoppage of felling. The demand of wood can not suddenly disappear and thus the price of timber shoots up in a market of low supply which act as an incentive for illegal trade. It is now understood that stoppage of felling has increased illegal cutting of timber in Burma border region and the produce is being smuggled into Thailand. In due course it will be impossible to assign smuggled timbers to Thai or Burmese forests. No matter where it is cut, the forest of Asia-Pacific will suffer. The other measures including some decentralization are recent and the results will have to wait. But an assessment of some of the new initiatives in respect of decentralization has found the results disappointing so far, which has been described earlier. The draft Community Forestry Act envisages involvement of the people in the degraded forests lying close to the villages and is not a call for devolution in respect of all the forests. Under the circumstances, we believe that the forests in Thailand will continue to deforest, although its rate may decrease to a certain extent.