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3.1. Status and trends of forest resources
3.2. Policies and institutions
3.3. Environmental initiatives, protected areas and wildlife resources
3.4. Wood energy
3.5. Wood based industries
3.6. Non-wood forest products
3.7. Forests as service industry

3.1. Status and trends of forest resources

The distribution of natural forests generally follows attitudinal zones. Below 1,000 m there are tropical forest, predominantly of Shorea robusta. Acacia catechu/Dalbergia sissoo forests replace Shorea along rivers. In the foot hills in western Nepal, Shorea is replaced by Terminalia/Anogeissus forests.

Sub-tropical forests occur between 1,000-2,000 m which include Pinus roxburghii, Alnus nepalensis, Schima wallichii and Castanopsis sp. Lower temperate forests (2,000-2,700 m) consists of Pinus wallichiana and several species of Quercus. Upper temperate forests (2,700-3,000 m) includes Quercus semecarpifolia forest along with Rhododendron arboreum, Acer sp, Pinus wallichiana etc.

Sub-alpine forests are found at around 3,000 m up to 4,200 m. Abies spectabilis, Betula utilis and Rhododendron forests and Juniperus Indica forest represent this category. The alpine zone has no trees, but shrubby Rhododendron and Juniperus are found up to 4,500 m.

The forest area of Nepal is estimated to be 5.5 million ha or 37.4% of the total area of the country. The "other land" category covering another 15.7% has good potential for development into forest or pasture. These lands include shrublands, grasslands and uncultivated areas. Table 2 shows the distribution of Nepal's natural forests.

Table 2: The distribution of Nepal's natural forests (' 000 ha.)

Distribution by






Crown cover

10 - 40%






40 - 70%






70 - 100%







poles & regeneration






small timber






large timber






Nepal - total












Adapted from (MPFS, 1988)

More than a quarter of the forests are degraded (less than 40% crown cover). Almost two-thirds are occupied predominantly by small-sized timber, and one-third by large timber. There is not enough regeneration or pole-sized stands. The total growing stock is 522 million m3 over-bark up to 10 cm top diameter or an average of 96 m3/ha (MPFS, 1988).

Annual government and community planting has been 5,260 ha during the 1992-96 period. Reliable figures for private planting, however, are not available. Dalbergia sissoo is the most common plantation species in the Terai. Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Acacia catechu, Tectona grandis and Albizia sp. have also been planted. In the mountains, Pinus roxburghii has been the most commonly planted species. In recent years a number of other species such as Alnus nepalensis, Ficus sp. and Primus cerasoides have also been planted.

With regard to forest land use changes, a total of 103,968 ha of forests in the Siwaliks and Terai were cleared under the government's settlement programme from the 1950s to mid 1980s (MPFS, 1988). A more recent study conducted by FORESC which compares the 1978/79 maps with the Landsat data of 1990/91 shows that the annual deforestation rate is 1.3% for the Terai (FORESC, 1994). This is less pessimistic than the figure of 3.9% given by MPFS (1988).

The major causes of forest degradation are over-cutting of wood for fuel and heavy lopping of trees for fodder. Forest fire is also a major cause. Although forests are not immediately lost unless the fire spreads to the canopy, they are doomed by continuous loss of reproduction. Another cause of forest degradation in Terai is the illicit felling of timber for smuggling across the border to India.

3.2. Policies and institutions

3.2.1. Policies
3.2.2. Institutions

3.2.1. Policies

The inherent vulnerability of the national forests to degradation and encroachment has long been recognized and a strategic plan for bringing the situation under control was elaborated in the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector. To facilitate implementation of the Plan, Forest Act 1993 and Forest By laws 1995 are in place.

The Master Plan outlines broad strategies for sustainable management of the nation's forest resources in line with Nepal's economic, social and environmental goals. These are further elaborated in the Eighth Five Year Plan (1992-97). The first priority is to increase forest production and productivity without permanently damaging the resource base. The second is to reduce pressure on the resource through increasing efficiency in resource use, development of alternative sources of energy, rehabilitation of degraded forest land, promotion of private farm forestry and enforcement of legislation.

According to MPFS (1988), the approved forestry policy of Nepal is as follows:

a) Production and Utilization

· The forest resource to be managed and utilized for the basic priority products of fuelwood, fodder, timber, and medicinal plants.

· Forests near villages to be managed with the people's participation.

b) Conservation of ecosystems and genetic resources

· Land and forest resources to be managed and utilized according to their ecological capability so as to conserve the forests, soil, water, flora, fauna and scenic beauty.

c) Social aspects of land use

· The principles of decentralization policy to be applied in the forestry sector by community forestry as the priority forest management strategy.

· If the availability of forest land exceeds the needs of the local communities, the excess will be allocated for forest management in the following priority sequence: people living below the poverty line, small farmers and forest-based industries.

· Emphasis will be given to the multiple utilization of land for integrated farming systems by strengthening soil conservation and watershed management, agroforestry and other related activities.

d) Role of the private sector

· Establishment of private forests on leased and private land to be promoted.

· The Government to lease land to forest based enterprises for growing raw materials. New industries to be established only if their plans for the production and acquisitions of raw materials are acceptable to the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation.

3.2.2. Institutions

The Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MFSC) and the four departments under it are the major government forestry institutions. MFSC is responsible for policy formulation in the forestry sector. It does that in close collaboration with National Planning Commission for the plan and programmes and the Ministry of Finance for budget. It is also responsible for drafting forest legislation in close rapport with the Ministry of Law and Justice. The four departments under MFSC are:

· Department of Forest
· Department of Soil Conservation
· Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation
· Department of Plant Resources.

The ministry is also responsible in supervising the operations of the following parastatals and development boards:

· Nepal Rosin and Turpentine Industry
· Herb Production and Processing Company
· Forest Products Development Board
· Forest Research and Survey Centre Development Board.

The Timber Corporation of Nepal (TCN) under the Ministry of Supplies is involved in the marketing of logs collected from the government forests.

The Forest User Groups (FUGs) also comprise a prominent institution in the use and management of the forest resource. A large number of NGOs, both national and international, are active in Nepal. Because of the extensive destruction and degradation of the forest resource in the country with adverse impact on the supply of forest goods and services, many of them have incorporated tree planting and forest conservation in their agenda.

A large number of bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors are providing technical and financial support to Nepal. The more important bi-lateral donors are: USAID, ODA, AusAid, DANIDA, FINNIDA, GTZ, SDC, JICA and SNV. The multi-lateral donor agencies are: World Bank, FAO, EU, IFAD, ADB and UNDP. Agencies like CARE and UMN are also involved in Nepal's forestry sector.

Many other institutions are also closely associated with the forestry sector in Nepal. These include: Institute of Forestry, Tribhuvan University, professional societies like Nepal Foresters Association, Association of Forest-based Industrialists, Ministry of Population and Environment and many environmental forums.

3.3. Environmental initiatives, protected areas and wildlife resources

The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act provides for five categories of protected areas to help achieve the conservation of ecosystems and genetic resources. As defined in the Act, these are:

· National Park: an area set aside for conservation, management and utilization of flora and fauna together with the natural environment.

· Strict Nature Reserve: an area of ecological significance set aside for scientific study.

· Wildlife Reserve: an area set aside for the conservation of animal and bird resources and their habitats.

· Hunting Reserve: an area set aside for the management of animal and bird resources for hunting purpose.

· Conservation Area: an area managed for the sustainable development of human and natural resources.

In addition to protected areas under the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, the government may designate any land in public or private ownership as "protected watershed" based on the Soil and Watershed Conservation Act.

In the short history of protected areas in Nepal, diverse natural areas have been selected to protect notable biological communities representing the flora, fauna and culture of the country. To date there are eight National Parks, four Wildlife Reserves, one Hunting Reserve and two Conservation Areas totalling 2,105,100 ha, i.e. 14% of the country's total land area.

The Terai and High Mountain zones are well represented in Nepal's protected area system whereas the Middle Mountain zone is not adequately covered. The need for further protected areas to achieve better representation is recognized in national policies.

Some 100 mammalian, 850 bird and 3 large reptile species are found in the country out of which 26 mammals, nine birds and three reptile species are listed as totally protected in Nepal (MPFS, 1988). These are also listed in the Red Data Book on IUCN as rare and endangered species. Fish have not been included in the protected fauna so far.

The protected areas are closely associated with local people. The ultimate goal is to safeguard human and cultural values along with the natural environment. Accordingly, the habitation areas surrounding the National Parks have been classified as Buffer Zone and there is a legal provision for sharing the revenues of a National Park with the local communities living within the Buffer Zone.

The protected areas of Nepal clearly demonstrate the existence of varieties of plant and animal biodiversity in Nepal. In addition, there is also an urgent need to incorporate biodiversity management in forest areas outside protected areas (community forests and government forests).

3.4. Wood energy

Fuelwood is consumed in households as well as industries. Per capita consumption in household varies from one physiographic zone to another, because of climatic, economic and other differences. Based on per capita figures, combined with population projections, total household fuelwood consumption can be generated. Table 3 shows the projection of household fuel consumption.

Table 3: Household fuel consumption projection ('000 tonnes)








High Himal







High Mountains







Middle Mountains




























Adapted from MPFS (1988).

It is estimated that household fuel consumption in the Middle Mountains and Siwaliks will continue to increase. However, consumption in the High Mountains and High Himal will decline, as the population in these areas decreases because of migration to lower zones. The Terai has the biggest projected increase in consumption as a result of the big population increase that is expected, mainly from migration. It is estimated that 80% of fuelwood is obtained from forests, and private trees are the source of the remaining 20% fuelwood demand. Table 4 shows the industrial fuelwood consumption projections.

Table 4: Industrial fuelwood consumption projections ('000 tonnes)








Middle Mountains




























Adapted from MPFS (1988).

A decrease is predicted in fuelwood use by industries after 2000, as industries switch over to alternative fuels possibly electricity.

3.5. Wood based industries

3.5.1. Timber Harvesting
3.5.2. Sawmilling
3.5.3. Furniture industry
3.5.4. Plywood
3.5.5. Wooden handicrafts
3.5.6. Papermills

The first mechanized wood-based industry, in the form of a match factory, was established only in 1938. Successive five year plans have emphasized the development of industries based on indigenous materials; the speeding up of industrial development and the contribution of forests to the country's economic, social and industrial development. However, the wood-based industries have not advanced much, because of a number of constraints.

3.5.1. Timber Harvesting

Two streams of timber harvesting is prevalent in Nepal. The first is the crude, manual harvesting by the villagers. The other is through government agencies. The harvesting techniques are labour intensive and only slightly more mechanized than those used by the villages. Hand saws and axes are used for felling, delimbing and cross-cutting. Bullock carts are used to bring the logs to depots, from where they are loaded manually onto trucks that take them to the mill. At present these are no industries being planned that would require large volumes of logs over short periods. It is therefore, unlikely that timber harvesting techniques will change much, except for the introduction of better hand tools.

3.5.2. Sawmilling

It is estimated that 86% of all timber consumption takes place outside industrial units i.e. rural consumption. Industrial saw milling is done by private saw mills. The saw mills are all technically similar, consisting of a horizontal band saw with a very simple carriage and a vertical band saw for re-sawing. Power is supplied by electricity or diesel engine. Private saw mills are licensed without being given timber quotes, and are dependent on parastatals for their log supply. The saw milling industry supplies the towns with sawn wood, where it is used for furniture, joinery, building and construction.

Based on the growth of urban population and assuming a constant per capita consumption and 10% demand by development projects the demand for industrial sawn wood has been projected in table 5.

Table 5: Demand for industrial sawn wood up to 2010







Urban population, million







Consumption '000 m3 per capita







Sub total '000 m3/yr.







Development projects (10% above)







Total demand '000 m3/yr.







Corresponding log requirement, '000 m3/yr.







Adapted from MPFS (1988).

The capacity of the present saw milling industry is more than sufficient to meet sawn wood requirements up to 2010. However, most of the mills will have to be renovated before that date. Some many have to be relocated for better access to the raw material. In order for it to be able to serve Nepal with a supply of sawn wood, sawmilling would have to be recognized as an industry and not just an extension or by-product of forestry.

3.5.3. Furniture industry

Nepal's furniture industry includes modern factories, hundreds of small workshops and thousands of individual carpenters. To meet future demand, there is room for additional modern factories, but these will have to secure raw materials from the parastatals. Existing factories are already unable to operate at full capacity because of the lack of raw materials. While furniture has export potential, since its value added nature could overcome the high transport cost, there are problems that would have to be solved in raw material supply, product quality, suitable designs, and knowledge of export markets.

3.5.4. Plywood

There are two plywood mills in Nepal whose total production capacity is 62,300 m2. Both mills have old machinery and are very labour intensive. Because of shortage of raw materials, these mills are operating at about 52% capacity. There are no reliable data on plywood consumption in Nepal because there is an unrecorded flow across the border from India. But it is estimated that two-thirds of the local demand is fulfilled by imports from India. Therefore, there is sufficient demand to encourage the local plywood industry to expand. However, a demand for more plywood logs would put more pressure on the reduced forest resources so the alternative of easing plywood importation rules will have to be considered.

3.5.5. Wooden handicrafts

Wooden handicrafts are produced all over the country at a cottage industry level. There are no estimates of the volume or value of craft production for the country as a whole. However, for Kathmandu valley 4300 m3 of sawn wood is utilized by the handicraft industries and the value of their production is estimated at US$ 1 million (MPFS, 1988).

Although the required volume is not large, the producers are not obtaining good quality wood on a regular basis. This problem is hampering the export possibilities of the industry.

3.5.6. Papermills

At present Nepal's paper mills use non-wood raw materials such as sabai grass (Eulaliopsis binata), straw and waste paper. There are still no plans a foot to shift to wood-based paper and pulp factory in Nepal. In order to be self sufficient in printing and writing papers, Nepal will have to establish six new small mills (30 tonnes/day) or one or two large mills with a total annual capacity of 60,000 tonnes by 2010 The size of the mills should preferably be larger to derive the benefits of economy of scale and to bear the cost of pollution control facilities.

Given the uncertain availability of the raw materials being used at present, any new mills should be based on plantation grown wood. If 60,000 tonnes of paper were to be produced from fast growing short rotation plantations, it is estimated that 30,000 ha. area will have to be planted.

3.6. Non-wood forest products

The major non-wood forest products of Nepal are: medicinal and aromatic plants; lokta paper; pine resin; katha, and sabai grass. Lokta is linked to a traditional cottage industry while the others are linked to industries which add considerable value.

Medicinal and aromatic plants are important components of the vegetation of Nepal. More than 700 species are on record, constituting about 12% of Nepal's vascular flora. They are distributed throughout the country from the Terai to the alpine zone with some concentration in the higher altitudes.

Collection of medicinal and aromatic plants in the wild has been going on for ages in Nepal. Utilization of medicinal and aromatic plants in this country has been and still is largely as crude drugs. The bulk of the harvest is exported mostly to India. Because of the open border between India and Nepal and the poor maintenance of records, it is difficult to as certain the exact figures.

Herb Production and Processing Company Limited (HPPCL), a parastatal within MFSC, is responsible for the production, processing and export of medicinal and aromatic plants, crude drugs and extracts. In 1995/96, HPPCL sold US$ 448,000 worth of processed products (HPPCL, 1997). It also conducts commercial scale experiments in agro-technology in its herbal farms. It has a number of herb purchasing centres in different parts of the country. In addition to HPPCL, the trading of crude drugs is being handled by private firms and individuals. According to Edwards (1995) every year between 10,000 and 13,000 tonnes of medicinal and aromatic plants are harvested from the forests of Nepal. The value of their trade to Nepal's economy is estimated to be US$ 8.6 million/year.

Lokta (Daphne sp.) which is a shrub occurring in upper temperate forests, have been used as raw material for hand-made paper for a long time. They are the basis of a cottage industry with an estimated turnover of around US$ 175,000. Hand-made paper is used for a variety of purposes from legal documentation to record keeping papers, religions scriptures, file folders, envelopes and greeting cards. The handmade paper is also exported in small quantities. Special management plans for lokta harvest have been prepared and implemented in Baglung, Parbat and Myagdi districts. Hand-made paper production is a very important source of income for people living in the paper production areas. It is estimated that about 344,000 man-days are spent annually in hand-made paper production (MPFS, 1988).

Resin tapping of Pinus roxburghii has been going on for several decades. It has great economic significance, providing raw materials for domestic use and for the rosin and turpentine industry. One large resin processing plant is being operated by Nepal Rosin and Turpentine Industry, a parastatal. Six small scale private industries are also operating. Bulk of the resin is tapped in the western and far western regions of the country. Table 6 shows the estimates of resin collection and prospective industrial production.

Table 6: Estimates of industrial production based on pine resin






Resin collection '000 tonnes






Resin production '000 tonnes






Turpentine production '000 tonnes






Adopted from MPFS (1988).

Katha is an extract obtained from the heartwood of Acacia catechu. It is a light brown coloured crystalline substance used in the preparation of "paan" a chewing substance popular in South Asia. A by-product of katha production is catch, which is used in tanning and dyeing. Nepal has six katha factories with a total production of 650 tonnes of katha and 700 tonnes of catch. Nearly all of the production is exported to India and other countries of South Asia. This industry is dependent not on the market, but on the availability of khair, a rapidly diminishing resource.

Sabai grass is a common wild grass which grows from 450 to 900 m in tile sub-tropical forest areas of Nepal. It is traditionally used in rope making and thatching. Along with straw, it is used as raw material in Nepal's paper mills. Sabai improves the value of the paper significantly. Replanting becomes necessary when the grass yield starts diminishing as the root stock becomes exhausted.

In the absence of country-wide data, an estimate of annual production in four selected districts of Terai is shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: Estimate of annual production of sabai grass (tonnes) in four selected districts

Adapted from MPFS (1988)

The production of mines and quarries on forest lands are considered forest products in the forest legislation of Nepal. There are several stone, gravel, slate, lime and marble quarries operating in forest land in various parts of the country. Statistics on the production of these is not available.

3.7. Forests as service industry

The protected areas play an important role in the tourism industry of Nepal, both by attracting people to visit the country and by providing activities for them, once they are here. Many of the mountains including Everest, Makalu, and Langtang, the key species of wildlife and examples of cultural diversity are found in and around the protected areas. Protected areas are therefore, important in promoting Nepal as a tourist destination. The parks and reserves of the mountains are popular for trekking and mountaineering activities while those in the Terai are renowned for wildlife watching.

Many tourist lodges are operated by the park management in national parks, on a contract basis. In Royal Chitwan National Park, concessions have been given to commercial organizations to operate high class ecotourism resorts like Tiger Tops, Machhan Wildlife Resort, Gaida Wildlife Camp, Chitwan Jungle Lodge, and Temple Tiger.

Recently investment in ecotourism has been extended to other protected areas as well. The protected areas earn significant tourist revenues in Nepal. In 1995/96 the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation earned US$ 1.16 million from ecotourism related activities (DNPWC, 1996). More than 111,000 tourists (Nepali as well as foreigners) visited the National Parks and Wildlife Reserves in 1995/96. The number of visitors to these areas have been increasing in recent years (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Number of visitors in protected areas

Source: DNPWC (1996)

The protected areas help sell airline seats for Royal Nepal Airlines and fill hotel beds and restaurants in Kathmandu. They are also helping the trekking business because most scenic trekking, routes are within the boundaries of protected areas. They also promote many other sectors e.g. the book trade. The large range of books on wildlife and national parks and related topics in Kathmandu's book stores amply demonstrate this.

The parks and reserves are also used for educational and research purposes. According to DNPWC (1996), 17 researchers/students used the protected areas for their studies/research work. Similarly, these areas are also used by the film industry and television documentary producers. In 1995/96 DNPWC earned US$ 50,000 from licensing film shooting in the protected areas.

It is expected that the protected areas will continue to provide their services to more and more visitors. Experience shows that the number of Nepali tourists visiting:, these areas has been increasing in the recent years and this trend is expected to continue in future.

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