Forest code

Forest code seeking to strike a balance between the surging demand for timber and sustainable development methods, Bhutan adopted a forest management code on January 15. The comprehensive document is entitled the Code of Best Practices (cbp).

It lays down the roadmap for the country's national forest policy and would be binding on all forest management units (fmus). These units comprise forests earmarked for harvesting timber through scientific and environmentally acceptable methods. fmus are vital for Bhutan's economy.

The cbp identifies sustainable forestry methods and has been prepared by a team of experts, foresters and field workers. It includes short, medium and long-term plans, socio-economic surveys, observations and evaluations, forest management inventories and health and safety guidelines. The code would also set the parameters for community forests, national parks, private forests and plantations. It was discussed for nearly six years before being adopted.

"Best forest management practices were being followed in bits and pieces in various parts of the country. We have compiled them and are developing criteria for sustainable forest management,' reveals D B Dhital, joint director of Bhutan's forest resources development division. "There is a pressing need for sustainable forest management now,' feels Dasho Sangay Thinly, the country's agriculture secretary.

This is because the domestic demand for softwood has increased phenomenally. According to the forest department, the monthly demand of just the armed forces and some other institutions is 251 truckloads. "We can meet only a quarter of this,' says Lobzang Dorji, forest officer of Thimphu Dzongkhag district. In fact, the authorities are about to ask institutional users to obtain wood from private sources. The price of softwood has also increased recently as plots have run out of trees. A truckload of softwood now costs up to 3790 ngultrums or Nu (us $82.52) as against Nu 2850 (us $62.5) last year.

During deliberations on the cbp, some people had voiced reservations about a centralised system of forestry. They feared that such an arrangement may not be productive and could curtail community initiative. In this regard, Tom Dutson, a uk consultant involved in developing the cbp, says: "The code should be considered a dynamic and evolving document, and should be improved continuously.'

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