Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Forestry and technical assistance in Pakistan

A Sample of Co-operative Effort through National, Bilateral and International Programs


Forestry Advisor, Foreign Operations Administration, United States of America

PAKISTAN, the largest Muslim State in the world, has an area of approximately 235 million acres, but is divided into two halves separated by more than 1,000 miles of India. This physical separation and the specific location of the boundaries between Pakistan and India are largely the result of concentrations of Muslim population. In general, Muslim areas of prepartition India became Pakistan, and Hindu and other non-Muslim areas remained in India.

The land area of West Pakistan is 200 million acres and the population 33.8 million persons, giving a population density of 109 per square mile. In East Pakistan, the land area covers 35 million acres. The population totals 42 million, and the population density is 770 per square mile. Since 80 percent of the total population lives on farm land, the economy of the nation is predominantly agricultural.

West Pakistan, except for the upper slopes of the mountains that flank it on the north and west, is hot and dry. Large areas are absolute desert. Since the region lies between latitudes 24° and 37° N., the maximum summer temperatures range between 90° and 120° F., and except at altitudes above 5,000 feet, the minimum winter temperatures are rarely below freezing. Much of West Pakistan has an annual rainfall of less than 10 inches, some of it less than 2 inches. The portions at higher altitudes have progressively heavier rainfall (35 inches at Abbottabad at an elevation of 4,500 feet and 50 inches at 7,500 feet in the same vicinity). Much of the agriculture is in the plains and depends upon irrigation. Wheat is the principal agricultural crop.

In contrast, East Pakistan, situated at the mouth of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, between latitudes 21° and 27° N., is in the path of the southwest monsoons and receives an abundance of rainfall - 85 to more than 200 inches per year. Nearly all this rain falls during the monsoon season - 15 June to 1 October. The maximum summer temperature seldom exceeds 100° F., and the minimum winter temperature rarely is less than 40°-45° F. The relative humidity is high, especially during the monsoon season.

Industrially, Pakistan is just beginning to develop. In the partition of India, much of the industrial capacity and leadership was concentrated in the area that became India. For example, the bulk of the jute was grown, and is still grown, in what is now East Pakistan, but almost without exception the jute processing mills were in the vicinity of Calcutta, in present-day India. In the eight years since partition, the number and capacity of the jute mills in East Pakistan have increased sufficiently to handle much of the domestic jute production. An automobile assembly plant has recently begun operation in Karachi; a pulp and paper mill in East Pakistan is now producing paper from local bamboo. Local venture capital appears to be available for investment in proved industrial enterprises. The Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation, a government-sponsored organization, constructs and operates new industries until their success is assured, after which up to 49 percent of the stock is offered to private investors.

Industrial development is to be still further accelerated. Many commodities that could be produced locally are now imported, with a consequent heavy drain on the nation's limited foreign exchange. Furthermore, some local products - for example, cotton and jute - are shipped abroad raw or semiprocessed, whereas complete manufacture of the finished product would provide local employment and add materially to the value of the exported products. The current plans for the development of the country quite properly stress industrial development along with improvements in agriculture.

Transportation systems of West Pakistan differ greatly from those of the eastern wing of the country. West Pakistan has more than 5,300 miles of railroad and about the same length of surfaced roads, but has practically no navigable inland waterways. East Pakistan, on the other hand, has only 1,600 miles of railroad and almost no surfaced roads, but has more than 4,500 miles of navigable inland waterways.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is deficient in a number of natural resources. Supplies of economically accessible coal, oil, and commercially important minerals are not great. Even the forest area is small in proportion to the total land area and to the size of the population. Because of the shortage of coal, oil, and other fuels, wood is an important fuel throughout the country. Where wood is not available, as in much of West Pakistan, dried cow dung is widely used as fuel. Woodworking industries, of course, cannot develop without a dependable supply of reasonably cheap and accessible wood. Therefore, development of the forest is important, especially with respect to fuel supplies and industrial raw material.

The forest

Unfortunately, precise information on forest area and timber volume is lacking. Estimates of the potential forest area range as high as 10 to 12 million acres, of which perhaps no more than half is supporting tree growth. The remainder is usually wild land supporting a cover of brush, tall grass, bamboo, or other non-tree vegetation. This distribution means that, at most, less than 3 percent of the total land area can be considered as forest area. As far as can be ascertained from available data, there is approximately the same amount of forest area in West Pakistan as in East Pakistan, but, because of the large land area in West Pakistan, the ratio between forest area and total land area in that wing of the country is much lower than that of East Pakistan.

Considering the nation as a whole, approximately three-quarters of the forest area belongs to the several provinces as constituted at the time of writing. Most of the remainder, almost entirely in West Pakistan, is in private ownership. The Central Government owns no forest land.

Forest land under provincial control is of two principal kinds:

a) reserved forests;
b) unclassed state forests.

Reserved forests are publicly-owned forest lands that are managed for the production of timber or other forest products, or for the protection of soil from erosion. Unclassed state forests are publicly-owned forest lands that are not subject to management. Ordinarily unclassed forest lands have against them a private right that interferes with their unrestricted operation as public-forest enterprises. For example, large areas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of East Pakistan have to be designated as unclassed state forests because of the vested rights of Chakma and other tribesmen in the area. Long-standing pacts with their chiefs give the tribesmen the right to cut forest products and to clear land in these areas for cultivation. However, as the private rights on unclassed state forests are extinguished by cash settlement or otherwise, these areas tend to become reserved forests.

In East Pakistan and certain provinces in West Pakistan, a third classification, vested forests, is also recognized. These are privately-owned forest areas that are managed by the Government. The area in this category is very small. In East Pakistan, nearly 60 percent of the forest area is reserved, and nearly all the private forest is dedicated either to the production of forest products or to the protection of the soil.

The character and distribution of the forest differ greatly between West and East Pakistan. In West Pakistan, the highest quality forest is found largely in the mountains where rainfall is sufficient to permit tree growth. Forest is also found along streams and irrigation canals in lower and more arid portions of the country and on dry hills and plains, especially in the Punjab and in Baluchistan. The richest forest flora is of course found in the hill and mountain districts in the north and northwest at elevations from 3,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level.

The forest of this zone is mainly coniferous. Deodar [Cedrus-deodara (Roxb.) Loud.], Pinus griffithii McClell. (syn. P. excelsa Wall., not Lam.), Picea smithiana Boiss. (syn. P. morinda Link), Abies spp., Pinus roxburghii Sarg. (syn. P. longifolia Roxb., not Salisb.) and others are found. Common broadleaf associates are oaks, maples, willow, birch, horsechestnut, poplar, and walnut. Some of the forest area, particularly on the steep upper mountain slopes, is commercially inaccessible.

At lower elevations and under drier conditions hardier and more drought-resistant species occur, Pinus gerardiana Wall. and Juniperus spp. Along the streams and irrigation ditches are shisham (Dalbergia sissoo Roxb.) and babul (Acacia arabica Willd.), also Prosopis spicigera L., Tamarix spp., and Populus euphratica Olivier.

The development of forest industries in West Pakistan is limited because timber is not readily accessible. To supplement the local supply, logs and cants are imported from Malaya, Burma, and East Pakistan. For the most part, logs produced locally are sawn by hand at the stump into cants or thick lumber, which in the steepest country is carried by two to four men to the nearest road or stream. In Karachi, Lahore, and other large centers, cants and other thick stock are resawn on band or circular table saws into lumber. Produced under these conditions, lumber is expensive ($350 to $400 per 1,000 board-feet for ordinary construction lumber). Wooden sports goods (tennis rackets hockey sticks, etc.) are manufactured at Sialkot, and a veneer and plywood plant began operation in Karachi in 1954. Crude gum is produced from Pinus roxburghii in the northern portion of West Pakistan and is processed to turpentine and rosin near Lahore. During recent years, the average annual receipts of crude gum have totaled about 2,000 metric tons. Certain drugs, chiefly ephedrine and santonin, are produced from trees or shrubs in the forests of West Pakistan.

In East Pakistan, there is a large area of practically virgin and merchantable second-growth hardwood timber. Most of the virgin area is found in the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar area, a hilly submountainous area between the Bay of Bengal and Burma. The second-growth timber is chiefly found in the Sundarbans, a low swampy area of about a million acres adjacent to the numerous mouths of the Ganges-Brahmaputra River system. In this area the timber is readily accessible because of the interlacing network of waterways and has for many years supplied the nearby Calcutta market and that of the adjacent heavily populated rural areas.

The forest of the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar area is of two general types, tropical evergreen forests, and mixed deciduous and evergreen forests. In addition, there are areas of plantations, bamboo and savannahs.

The tropical evergreen forest is usually found in moist, deep valleys and on the more moist slopes that face the north, northeast, and east. The largest trees in the overstory exceed 100 feet in height and are chiefly of the following species: chaplash (Artocarpus chaplasha Roxb.), used mainly for light construction, furniture, boat-building, and paneling, telsur (Hopea odorata Roxb.), boat-building and interior use; mainakat, (Tetrameles nudifora R. Br.), suitable for tea chests and boxes; and narikel (Sterculia alata Roxb.), suitable for tea chests, plywood, boxes. The most common species in the story immediately beneath this overstory are: pitraj (Amoora rohituka Wight & Arn.), house-building and furniture; and toon (Cedrela toona Roxb.), boat building and furniture. Even a third story of fuelwood species is found on many areas.

The overstory of the mixed deciduous and evergreen forest, in addition to one or several of the above, contains deciduous species including principally garjun (Dipterocarpus spp.), used for construction, railway sleepers, and house building; civit (Swintonia floribunda Griff.), practically not used at present but suitable for packing boxes, matches, and possibly plywood, and paper pulp; and koroi (Albizzia procera Benth.), potentially a source of paper pulp. This overstory varies in height from 150 to 200 feet. Beneath it is a second story of many species, mostly evergreen, 50 to 80 feet tall. Beneath this is still a third story, also mostly evergreen, ranging in height from 25 to 50 feet.

An elephant is used to assemble plantation-grown teak logs preparatory to raft formation on the Karnaphuli River in East Pakistan.

Approximately 11,000 acres of plantations, mostly teak (Tectona grandis L. f.), have been established in the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar territory. About 85 percent of this area has been established since 1930, and the current rate of establishment is about 700 acres annually.

The forest of the Sundarbans area is made up of species that can grow on a close, clayey soil where the tide inundates the base of the trees frequently with salty or slightly brackish water. In general, the degree of salinity of the water divides the forest area into three zones: the comparatively fresh-water areas, the moderately saline, and the salty. The quality and density of the forest are best in the relatively freshwater areas to the northeast, and become progressively poorer toward the south and west.

In the fresh-water areas during the rainy season, the rivers and creeks are either entirely fresh or are only slightly saline, and the soil receives annually a fresh deposit of silt or clay. Here the predominant species is sundri (Heritiera minor Roxb.), a heavy wood commonly used for boat-, carriage-, and cart-building, and for posts and poles. The best sundri forest is found on the areas that are well drained at each ebb tide. With it is associated gewa (Excaeceria agallocha L.), used for boxes, matches, and potentially for groundwood and other paper pulp which accounts for about 20 percent of the stand mixture in the northeast and about 50 percent near the boundary of the moderately saline area. Other species in approximate order of importance are: passur (Carapa moluccensis Lam.), furniture, handles, firewood; kankra (Bruguiera gymnorhiza Lam.), firewood, houseposts; keora (Sonneratia apetala Ham.), house- and boat-building, boxes. Along stream-banks golpatta (Nipa fruticans Wurmb.), a palm whose leaves are widely used for roof-thatching, is abundant. Ordinarily, the freshwater forest is relatively free of undergrowth

The moderately saline areas are usually found nearer the sea where the water is salty during the dry season but only slightly salty during the rainy season. Here the principal tree species are gewa and sundri - the proportion of the latter decreasing as the salinity of the water increases.

In the salty areas where the water is salty the year round, the forest consists mainly of scattered and stunted gewa, 10 to 12 feet in height.

Mechanized forest industries are being introduced into East Pakistan. Before 1947, sawmills, paper mills, veneer and plywood plants. and other forest industry plants serving what is now East Pakistan were largely in Calcutta or other centers now in India. In 1954, a pulp and paper mill at Chandraghona, East Pakistan, began operation on local bamboo. A few small sawmills and one small veneer plant are operating, and the construction of others is planned. Most of the lumber and railway sleepers are hand sawn. A wood preserving plant near Chittagong treats the sleepers used by the East Bengal Railway system.

Administration of the forest

The Conservators of Forests are responsible for the administration of provincial forests. In one or two provinces the forests are sufficiently important to warrant a chief conservator plus several conservators. Immediately beneath the conservators, organizationally, are the divisional forest officers, in charge of individual forest administrative units, called forest divisions. Forest rangers report administratively to divisional forest officers. Beneath the forest rangers are assistant rangers, foresters, and forest guards.

The Inspector-General of Forests, currently Y. S. Ahmad, is the Chief Forest Officer of the Central Government and is the co-ordinator of forestry in Pakistan. Although he has no direct administrative control over the provincial forests, he does have considerable influence on forestry within the nation. His judgment is influential in providing grants or subsidies from the Central Government to the Provincial Governments for forestry purposes. Periodically, he inspects the forest organization in the various provinces and may recommend action to the Provincial Government, which, in turn, may instruct the chief conservator or conservator accordingly. The Inspector-General is responsible for national planning in the field of forestry; for compiling forest statistics on a national basis; for operation of the professional forestry school, now at Abbottabad and presently to be moved to Peshawar; and for the operation of the Forest Research Institute at Abbottabad and the Forest Research Laboratory at Chittagong. Furthermore, he represents Pakistan at international forestry meetings.

Technical aid program

Current data showing the annual production of timber products for Pakistan are not available. The most recent (1952) figures for the entire nation indicate a total recorded production of about 9 million cubic feet for industrial products, excluding fuelwood. Recorded fuelwood production was five times this quantity. The size of the unrecorded production is probably very much greater than the known production.

Loose rafts of 1098 of Dipterocarpus spp. at low tide along the Karnaphuli River near Chittagong, East Pakistan. Note the bundles of bamboo needed to goat the logs.

Preparing to move a log of Dipterocarpus spp. into the sawmill of the East Bengal Forest Department at Kalurghat.

The forest resource and its potentialities are now being inventoried and Pakistan's planners are hoping that the forest product industries will presently be able to produce most of the wood items that are now being imported and will also produce useful items not now being used locally. To accomplish this plan, several obstacles must be overcome. First, much of Pakistan's choicest timber is economically inaccessible because of current logging and transporting practices. Through mechanization, improved management, and the introduction of other efficient methods, logging and manufacturing costs can probably be reduced. Lower costs will permit the opening up of currently inaccessible timber stands and thereby increase the forest resource base upon which domestic industries can be built.

The second obstacle is, as usual, the lack of precise knowledge concerning the properties of some local wood species or concerning the manufacturing methods. that will produce serviceable products from them. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, by way of example, is found a relatively large volume of civit that is today practically unutilized. Trees five to seven feet in diameter and 200 feet tall occurring in mixture with the more valuable species are felled and burned in the land-clearing operation which follows commercial logging and precedes the establishment of a teak plantation on a cutover area. Tests of some properties of civit have been made at Debra Dun, India, and elsewhere; others are needed. Furthermore, wood of this species should actually be used on an experimental basis to make products for which its physical properties seem to be suited. In this manner, suitable processing methods can be developed.

With these obstacles to overcome, the Government of Pakistan first approached the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Four forestry technicians of that organization (Alexander Rule, logging expert; F. Cermak, sawmilling expert; J. A. von Monroy, forest industries expert; and Arne Sundelin, pulp and paper expert) visited Pakistan and made recommendations in their individual fields of specialization. The Technical Co-operation Administration (afterwards the Foreign Operations Administration) of the United States of America ultimately became interested in implementing some of the recommendations of these experts. The outcome was a request from the Government of Pakistan for the establishment of two forestry projects under the foreign aid program of the United States Government.

Introduction of equipment

The first of these projects was designed to train forest officers of the Government of Pakistan in the use of mechanical logging and timber-processing equipment in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. A small number of logging tractors and logging arches were to be acquired, along with a machine shop to keep the equipment operating. One or more technicians from the United States were to go to Pakistan on a two-year assignment to train local technicians in the operation and proper maintenance of the equipment, in building logging roads, and in planning the entire logging operation. In addition,- the Pakistan technician who was to have charge of the project was to be sent to the United States for training in logging methods similar to those that could be used in East Pakistan.

At the end of 1952, a technician from the United States Forest Service, Maxwell E. Becker, was sent to Pakistan to begin the project. Early in 1953, K. A. Miedler, an Austrian technician employed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, visited the logging area with Mr. Becker. As a result, logging equipment, repair parts, and machine-shop equipment were ordered, the bulk of which was received in Chittagong in the winter of 1954-55. In the meantime, Nuruddin Ahmed, a Pakistan technician, was sent to the United States for approximately 6 months of training in mechanical logging and wood-processing methods. In September 1954, Paul Logan, logging engineer from the United States Forest Service, took over the duties of Mr. Becker at the termination of his tour of duty.

In the meantime, the scope of the log-extraction project was enlarged to include the acquisition and construction of a modern sawmill, and the training of personnel in its operation. The details of this project are still being worked out. It is possible that a preservative treating plant and still other wood - processing units may later be added.

Forest Research Laboratory

The second forestry project, the establishment of the Forest Research Laboratory, also got under way at the end of 1952 with the assignment of the writer to Chittagong, East Pakistan, where the proposed laboratory was to be constructed. The first step was the preparation of a problem analysis describing local forestry conditions and forestry problems that required research. This work, of course, was prepared in close collaboration with local technicians who were currently concerned with these problems, and with J. A. von Monroy of FAO. Because personnel and funds were likely to be limited for forestry research in East Pakistan in the immediate future, initial effort of the Forest Research Laboratory was to be concentrated in the field of forest products research. This decision recognized the need for increasing the contribution of the local wood-products industries to national self-sufficiency.

To meet this local need, four fields of research were given highest priority:

1. wood seasoning;
2. wood preservation;
3. veneer, plywood, and building board;
4. woodworking shop (use of modern machinery in woodworking).

Wood-seasoning research is very important in Pakistan. Improperly seasoned wood of many local species shrinks, warps, and checks in use and is unfit, or at least undesirable, for certain purposes. Furthermore, certain uses of unseasoned or partially seasoned wood invite decay and make necessary early and often costly replacement. Research in the wood-seasoning field is needed to determine the conditions under which kiln-seasoning of lumber and other forest products is advisable and to work out the best kiln schedules for the more important local species.

For similar reasons the field of wood preservation is also important, especially in East Pakistan where warm weather prevails most of the year and where the humidity is especially high during the monsoon season. Not only is wood decay fairly rapid, but losses caused by insects, particularly termites, are heavy. Research is needed to ascertain pressures and quantities of several kinds of wood preservatives necessary to give protection to the nondurable local species.

Both West and East Pakistan have a number of species that should be suitable for veneer and plywood. A local supply of plywood suitable for tea chests is of especial importance at present, since practically the entire tea crop is packed in chests made from ¼-inch plywood manufactured in Finland and paid for through foreign exchange. Furthermore, a suitable commercial grade of plywood would meet construction, decorative, and furniture needs. Research on a laboratory scale is needed to solve the problems of cutting, drying, and gluing native species. Once these problems are solved, venture capital may be induced to undertake production on a commercial scale. In plywood for tea-chest panels, strength and freedom from odor are important. The manufacture of a serviceable building board from local species not now used would also provide a much-needed construction material from wood now wasted. Research on bonding agents, methods of shredding or fiberizing, and methods of board formation are needed before commercial production can be undertaken.

From one point of view the operation of a woodworking shop might not be considered research. Yet the use of machines in turnery and in other factory operations using wood species not heretofore used will almost certainly present problems in operating methods, speed of machines, set of knife blades, etc. Furthermore, in communities where individual craft production methods have prevailed for centuries, the advantages of mass-producing and assembling identical and interchangeable furniture and wood equipment parts must be demonstrated. In addition, machine operators must be trained if the more efficient factory methods are to be introduced. For these reasons the operation of a woodworking shop as part of the Forest Research Laboratory seems warranted.

A project designed to test the strength of the native timber species was considered and rejected, largely because the most important species had already been tested for strength and other mechanical properties at the Forest Research Institute at Debra Dun, India. Most of the results of these tests are available in published form.

After deciding on the fields of work in which initial research should be concentrated, the next step was to design suitable laboratory buildings. To take the initiative in this phase of the work, Laurence V. Teesdale of the Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin, spent several weeks in Chittagong. After thoroughly considering plans of other laboratories, four separate buildings aggregating approximately 14,000 square feet of Boor space were agreed upon and rough sketches prepared. Three single-storied laboratory buildings of brick and concrete were to house the actual laboratory equipment. The fourth, a two-storied brick and concrete administration building, was to house the principal offices, library, clerical section, etc. These sketches were revised- by the architect of the Foreign Operations Administration and were turned over to the Pakistan Public Works Department for drafting of final architectural plans, making cost estimates, issuing construction bids, and awarding construction contracts.

Simultaneously with the designing of the buildings, a list of laboratory equipment and supplies was prepared and submitted through the usual official channels for revision and ultimate purchase in the United States. This list included the appropriate experimental seasoning kilns; preservative treatment tanks and pressure cylinders; and veneer lathes, knives, driers, and presses; together with the machines for a modest woodworking shop. In addition, several hundred books were selected as the beginning of a technical library, and the necessary chemical and expendable supplies were also ordered. These items the United States Government was to buy and: pay for in dollars. The Pakistan share in the co-operative agreement was the procurement of land and the construction of buildings.

The sawmill operated by the East Bengal Forest Department at Kalurghat: in the foreground are plantation-grown 1098 and, left, railway sleepers sawn from logs of Dipterocarpus spp.

While these preparations were being made, negotiations were under way to secure an appropriate site. The one selected is on the outskirts of Chittagong about four miles from the downtown area. Approximately half of the 42-acre site was initially the property of the East Bengal Forest Department and was readily made available. The remainder, the most suitable construction site, was acquired from private owners. By the time the architectural drawings had been prepared from the initial layout sketches and construction bids had been issued, the site had been acquired. Site preparation and building construction began early in September 1954 and were nearly completed in March 1955.

The training of Pakistan laboratory technicians has been handled as follows: the officer selected as ultimate director of the laboratory had been sent to the United States for training at Madison, Wis., before any United States technicians were sent to Pakistan. He returned to Pakistan in time to aid in securing title to the building site, in preparing the building sketches, and in drafting the preliminary equipment order. By the end of 1954, four technicians had been selected to be sent to the United States for a six-month training period, one in each of the following fields: wood seasoning; wood preservation; veneer, plywood and building board; and woodworking.

Forestry education

Technical aid programs will be contributing to forestry in Pakistan in still another way. Prior to the partition of British India, foresters were chiefly trained at Debra Dun. In the partition, this educational and research institution fell to India, thus forcing Pakistan to organize its forestry education from the beginning. Initially forestry instruction was offered at Murree Hills in far from satisfactory accommodations. The program was that each year approximately 30 Forest Rangers should graduate from the Ranger School and be assigned to positions in one or another of the provincial forestry departments. Every second year a class of about 15-20 senior forest officers would graduate from the Forestry College and enter the superior cadre of the provincial forestry departments.

In 1952, more suitable quarters than those at Murree Hills were made available at Abbottabad, but even there instruction and laboratory facilities were far from ideal. In 1954, negotiations with the Government of Pakistan, the Foreign Operations Administration, and the Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College pointed the way to the construction of new forestry educational and forest product laboratory facilities as an integral part of the University of Peshawar. According to the plans, the Government of Pakistan would construct the buildings at Peshawar the Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College would provide certain faculty advisers; and the Foreign Operations Administration would purchase laboratory and other equipment and would bear the cost of the faculty advisers. By these means, forestry education in Pakistan could be strengthened.

In summary, forestry is helping Pakistan to become industrially more self-sufficient and economically stronger. With a little financial and technical aid at the outset, Pakistan's vigorous forestry leadership will go far to increase the contribution of the forest resource and industry to the national economy. And all the foreign technicians who have been involved can justly be proud to have had a small share in this undertaking.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page