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7 Forest Planning and Management

Forest planning and management is a planned interference in forest systems to achieve or maintain desired forest patterns. The forest planning designs the capacity of forest systems to satisfy social, political and economic needs of the landscape. The forest management builds and maintains that capacity. This chapter presents information on the forest planning and management in Bangladesh.

7.1 General

The forests of Bangladesh have been under planned management for over a hundred years. The forest department prepared new working plans to meet the new challenges and opportunities after independence of Bangladesh in 1971. The most of the forest areas of Bangladesh face immense demographic pressure and have crossed resiliency limits. The rigidity in the public management systems and lack of financial resources continue to limit the ability of the forest organization to develop and sustain existing forest resources.

7.2 Main Problems for Sustenance

Exponentially increasing use and dependence on forest goods and services by the fast growing population, and poor enforceability of forest regulations are the main problems faced by the forest resources of Bangladesh. The crux of the problem, therefore, lies outside the forestry sector. All other problems including those within the forestry sector like declining productivity and sustainability of forest resources are manifestations of the "main problem".

Many of the problems within the forestry sector are ubiquitous. Inability of the forest resource to satisfy demands both at local and national levels is increasing all over Bangladesh. Forest are fragmenting, shrinking, and getting deforested. Most of the forest areas are drifting towards lower limits of resiliency.

7.3 National Forest Policy

Bangladesh has adopted a new National Forest Policy (NFP) in October 1994. The NFP among its objectives lays emphasis on people oriented programs to manage environment, preserve existing values, conserve plants and animals, and maximize benefits to local people. The NFP specially focuses on protection and management of resources (natural forests, protected areas, and plantations) and accommodation of needs of local people through participatory arrangements.

NFP provides a basis for legislation, plans and prescriptions, and a framework to continuously correct institutional inadequacies for maintaining dynamic growth patterns of forests. It provides an important means to achieve goals considered essential and desirable by society. The effectiveness of a policy will however depend on its success in achieving the defined goals.

Bangladesh has adopted a three dimensional approach to realize the vision of NFP through development of three major type of programs, (a) People -oriented forestry programs, (b) Forest Production-directed programs, and (c) Institutional strengthening programs including development of appropriate legal framework.

Bangladesh has also adopted two other national policies (national policy of economic growth, and national environment policy) related to the forestry sector. The "policy of economic growth" within the broad framework of its Twenty Year Perspective Plan (1990-2010) covers acceleration of economic growth, alleviation of poverty, generation of employment opportunities, and increased self reliance. The "national environmental policy" stresses maintenance of the ecological balance, protection against natural disasters, prevention of pollution and degradation of the environment, environmentally sound development, and sustainable long term and environmentally congenial utilization of all resources.

Policy directives from all the three policies favor ecologically sound and biologically sustainable development of forestry, support economic improvement through appropriate measures of expansion, conservation, management and utilization of resources, advocate cross sectoral linkages, and promote people participation at each stage.

7.4 Forest Planning

Modern forestry involves interrelated activities that go far beyond the limits of forest land, and affect the welfare of all living beings. The fundamental issue is how to plan forests to sustain their essential ecological functional roles, and to provide maximum societal and individual satisfaction. Bangladesh follows two (National and District) level planning system for its forest resources. At national level, it has a long-term macro forest planning model (Forestry Master Plan, 1992) and at district level it has working or management plans and schemes. The basic objectives of forest planning in Bangladesh is to optimize the contribution of forest resources for environmental stability, economic improvement and social development.

At the national level, the 1992 Forestry Master Plan (FMP) serves the purpose of macro forest plan. It deals with various policy issues, institutional reforms, and environmental concerns. The resource management framework aims at balanced and sustainable land use and focuses on the basic needs of the rural people. The FMP, 1992 identifies following five pre-conditions for sustainable development in the forestry sector,

The FMP, 1992 has developed four main themes to achieve its objectives; (a) environment management, (ii) people oriented forestry, and (iii) production directed programs, and (iv) institutional restructuring and development. The environment management provides for conservation of forests of natural origin, protected area development and community resource management. The people oriented forestry includes forestry on privately owned land, social forestry, participatory management of government controlled forest land, tree plantations on non-forest public ("Khas") lands and unclassed state forest (USF) in the hill tracts. The production directed programs provide for industrial plantations, wood harvesting, and promotion of industry and technology. Finally, the institutional restructuring and development will focus on entrepreneur-based infrastructure and maintenance, industrial support, training and transfer of technology, institutional change, research and development.

Forest planning at divisional and district level in Bangladesh is simply a technical resource planning in isolation of other sectors. The plans weakly address new concerns of forestry development - soil conservation, watershed protection, environmental and conservation values, local participation, gender issues, and non wood forest products. The name of the planning document has changed from Working Plan to Management Plan. The plan period varies from 10 to 20 years. Very few forest divisions have current working / management plans and provisions of these plans are not strictly followed. The moratorium on extraction from natural forests issued in October 1989 has further complicated the picture. A computer based Resource Information Management System (RIMS) supports Bangladesh forest department in its forest planning and management activities. It needs major up-gradation (hardware and software) to meet challenges of the next century.

7.5 Forestry and Five Year Plans

Bangladesh follows the system of Five Year Plans for planning its economic growth and development. The past Five Year Plans (FYP) have treated the forests as a sector of investment for production and revenue. However, the recent FYPs treat forestry development not only as resource for economic development but also as an integral part of the rural development process, by providing a multiplier effect through forest resource based processing activities and creating additional employment and income. Such interrelated development activities requires detailed planning and designs balanced with capabilities of natural resources and people, and with directives of national policies. Currently inter-sectorally coordinated and integrated forest planning is not present in Bangladesh. The forest planning at micro level is a technical resource planning.

7.6 Forest Management Plans

The forests of Bangladesh have been under planned management for over a hundred years. The forests of Sitapahar and in Sundarbans were the first to be notified as reserved forests in 1875 under the Forest Act, Act VII of 1855. The first working plan came into force in the Sundarbans during 1893. The Forest Department started plantation activity by planting Teak at Sitapahar in 1871. The greater part of the Hill Forests was initially on a care and maintenance basis. In plains, the Sal forests came under management and planning of the forest department during 1950's.

The forest department prepared new working plans after independence of Bangladesh in 1971 to meet the new challenges and opportunities. The forest department adopted clear felling followed by artificial regeneration as main system of forest management. The Teak was identified as the main species for plantation with an agroforestry system "taungya". The aim was to convert large parts of the high forest to plantations within the rotation period.

The forest management planning model of Bangladesh is traditional that considers only technical aspects and plans forest resources that vary over space in type and area (Table 50 at Appendix). The felling moratorium of 1989 covers most of the forest area but its implementation is not effective (FMP, 1992). The productivity of forests is low to due inadequate financial resource for forest development, rigidity in the management system, exponential population growth, and poor enforceability of forest regulations. A large proportion of the hill forests has been planted. The remaining forest area needs conservation and development. The commercial timber extraction levels in Hill Forests are unsustainable. The Sal plains forests have been heavily encroached and the present growing stock has almost lost its capacity to regenerate by itself. The coastal fringe plantations and tree cover on embankments are supplementing the declining natural capacity of coastal forest lands to deal with the cyclones.

Management of Hill Forests

The Hill Forests consists of tropical evergreen and tropical moist-evergreen forests. These forests are most important watershed areas in the country. Scientific forest management of these forests began in the 1870s under a system of selection felling and natural regeneration. In 1930s, the system of management was modified to clear felling supported by artificial regeneration or plantation, while the system of selection-cum-improvement felling also continued. The prescriptions for plantations include establishment of natural regeneration plots of six to ten meters width around every 40-hectare plantation.

Hill forests were heavily exploited during the Second World War. Subsequent management emphasized on raising long and short rotation plantation on a large scale, and abandoned the natural regeneration plots. Delays in revision/reformulation of management plans (working plans) including plantations, and the need for ensuring timber requirements of led to development of "adhoc" treatment. Yield regulation by area was changed to one of predetermined volume. This lead to larger felling areas and consequently a larger plantation program. Better and higher yields motivated for the large scale conversion of Hill forests into plantations. The sustained principles of forest management were not applied in practice and adequate information to establish annual allowable cuts does not exist (FMP, 1992).

As regards Bamboo, the contribution of public forests is estimated at about 194 million culms against 528 million culms from village forests (FMP, 1992). The present system of annual auctions and permits does not encourage investment in infrastructure such as roads and cable ways. As a result, part of the bamboo areas remain inaccessible and the prescribed cutting rules are not consistently followed, resulting in high waste and unnecessary damage.

Management of Sal Plains Forests

Most of the Sal forests originally belonged to feudal landlords and were not under scientific management for a very long period. The forest department gradually assumed their responsibility for management after nationalization in 1950s. The silvicultural prescriptions included clear felling with regeneration mostly from coppice; simple coppice and coppice with standards on a rotation of about 20 years. Thinning was prescribed on a 10-year cycle to improve the Sal crop. The plan provided for taungya system to afforest the blanks. Due to immense pressure from growing population, none of these practices could sustain the sustainable development of these forests, which has continued to deplete in size and stocking. Sal forests areas have maximum encroachment and most of the root stock of remnant Sal forests has lost coppicing power suggesting use of plantation for re-afforesting such areas. FMP, 1992 observes that in most cases, the land in the remnant Sal Forests are not suitable for permanent agriculture without irrigation, However, if such Sal stands are provided adequate protection and tending then they can still respond and grow.

Management of Mangrove Forests

The Sundarban forests were declared as a Reserved Forest in 1879, and are managed under a selection system. Early management consisted of a selection system with fixed exploitable girth limit for the main species and a felling cycle of 40 years. Subsequent working plans reduced the felling cycle to 20 years. The forest management intensity was increased after construction Khulna Newsprint Mills Ltd (KNM) in 1959, and other Khulna-based forest industries. All age gradations of trees are not available due to improper marking and inadequate regeneration (FMP, 1992). Ecological changes taking place in the Sundarbans are evident, apparently from extensive changes in river flow and increased salt content. Besides Golpatta palm leaves exploitation takes place on the basis of collection permits. Scarcity of information and inability to enforce regulations are the two main problems in sustainable management of Sunderbans.

Management of Unclassed State Forests (USF)

The USF do not have any forest management plans. The district administration controls the large amount of the 700,000 ha of hill land called Unclassed State Forests (USF). Most of this land is bare, lacks forest cover, and losing topsoil. Its capacity to sustain shifting cultivation, the past major land use, is declining. Social, political, tenurial, and institutional constraints limit the development of such USF lands. Chittagong Hill Tracts contains one of the largest and most concentrated blocks of these unproductive lands in the country that have remained undeveloped for decades. Most of these lands are now only suited for raising forests species. Marketing problem restricts use of some of these lands for horticulture. Ambiguity about land tenure checks new investment in these lands.

Management of Protected Areas (PAs)

Management plans for the PAs have been developed for the first time in 1997 (Rosario, 1997 a, 1997b). Five National Parks, seven Wildlife Sanctuaries and one Game Reserve are within public forests in Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Wildlife Preservation (Amendment) Act of 1974 provides legal protection to these areas. These 13 PAs occupy an area of 164,660 ha, or about 1.11 percent of the land area of Bangladesh. This is well below the target of 5 percent established by the Wildlife Task force in 1986 and the target of 12 percent recommended by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

Management of Private or Village Forest

There is no forest management planning for the village forest, which are mostly homestead forests and extend over 270,000 ha in about 10 million households covering over 85,650 villages. The private forests annually supply about 5 million M3 of wood (about one million m3 of logs and about four million m3 of fuelwood) and 0.53 million Air Dry MT of bamboo. The homestead forests are the most important source of wood, bamboo and other non wood forest products in the villages. A national survey (FMP 1992) shows that the average growing stock has remained almost unchanged since 1980-81 but has much higher proportion of smaller diameter trees. There are no formal plan or management guidelines for these forests.

7.7 Public Management of Forest Industrial Activities

Bangladesh government has direct interference in forest based industries sector. For example, Bangladesh Forest Industries Development Corporation (BFIDC), a government undertaking, began in 1960, as a state owned company, for developing timber-based activities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It is now a semi-autonomous agency under the MOEF, owning 16 enterprises (two timber extraction units, 11 wood-based industrial units, and three board manufacturing plants). Many are inoperable or not profitable. BFIDC employs some 4,000 persons. It also has 11,700 hectares of rubber plantations spread over 12 estates of which over 5,000 hectares are in production.

Mainly due to raw material shortage and operating inefficiency the BFIDC is incurring losses. Government is considering to resolve this problem through public enterprise reforms encompassing dis-investment, financial restructuring, institutional improvement, and better pricing policies.

7.8 Management of Forestry Research

Financial, human, infrastructure, and equipment resources for forestry research are very less. Stability of core funding is an important issue in forest research. Since core funds for research come from revenue budget, they are often small and inadequate. Scientific manpower in forest research is weak in number and skills.

Bangladesh Forest Research Institute "BFRI" is responsible for all aspects of forestry research covering silviculture, forest management, forest protection, forest products development, environmental conservation and agroforestry. Many research positions remain vacant and nearly half of these are senior level positions. The professional skills of the majority of the scientists need upgradation. The dissemination of research information and technology transfer processes are weak in BFRI and there is no formal institutional mechanism to promote technology transfer.

The present mechanism of setting forestry research priorities is weak and unsatisfactory. Participation of stakeholders is almost negligible. Client's identification and priority for forestry problems are critically important for ensuring research relevancy and success.

7.9 Forest Organization

The forest management started in 1864 with appointment of a Conservator of Forests for Bengal and Assam and with establishment of a reserved forest in 1875. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) was created in 1989, and Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD), Bangladesh Forest Industries Development Corporation (BFIDC), and BFRI were brought under its control.

The current structure is hierarchical with department headed by a Chief Conservator of Forests. Four Deputy Chief Conservators, responsible for forest management planning, forest extension, development planning, and Environment Management assists the CCF. An Assistant Chief Conservator supports each DCCF. The Conservator of forests heads seven circles concerned with field operations and territorial forestry, and directly reports to the CCF. Each circle is in charge of several forest divisions. The boundary of each division normally coincides with administrative district boundary. There are 37 forest divisions. Each forest division consists of forest ranges, controlled by Forest Rangers, who in turn are in charge of several beats, each under a Deputy Ranger or Forester.

Fig. 32. Current Structure of Forest Department

In past the major function of the Department was to protect the forests and to raise revenue for the state and it worked under a centralized and closed administrative system. The current national development plans and programs consider forestry as an important sector impacting social, economic and environmental conditions and ask for more socially oriented forestry planning and management.

Different technical missions of ADB, FAO and UNDP have recently examined the strength and weakness of the current legal and institutional structure of forest department to satisfy current social, political, economic and technical needs. These missions have made various recommendations that are under active consideration of the Government of Bangladesh.

7.10 Summary

The forests of Bangladesh have been under planned management for more than hundred years. During last few decades, the socio-economic conditions have minimized the utility and use of forest planning and management. The unplanned biotic pressures have far exceeded the planned conservation efforts and have shrunk, degraded and fragmented the forest resources. However, the national development plans have developed a better perception about forestry as an important sector impacting social, economic and environmental conditions and ask for a more socially oriented forestry institution. Accordingly, Bangladesh has adopted a new National Forest Policy in 1994 and the issue of institutional reform in its forestry sector is under active consideration of the government. The new policy lays emphasis on people oriented programs to conserve natural resources, preserve existing values and to maximize benefits to local people.

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