Forestry Adviser, World Bank, Washington, D.C.
A range of agriculture, forestry, fiscal, and other policy initiatives will be needed if the Asian Region is to preserve a significant proportion of its remaining 300 million hectares of biologically diverse tropical forests and to sustain a timber industry beyond the year 2000. These forests have been reduced by one-half since the turn of the century. To contain this forest encroachment effectively, a multidisciplinary approach and top-level political commitment will be needed.
Closed forests, i.e., tropical forests with a closed canopy as opposed to open grasslands savannah, cover 300 million hectares and account for about one-third of the land area of Asia. About 20% of the forest area has been logged over. Approximately 500 million cubic meters of fuelwood and 100 million cubic meters of industrial wood are produced each year. The forest industries of the Region annually generate more than US$5 billion in foreign-exchange earnings.
Wood removals in most countries exceed the sustainable yield of the forests, and investment in forest management and reforestation is annually running less than one-third that needed to replace what is being cut. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/UNEP, 1981), only 13% of the forest area is being managed for sustained yield. Annually, some 1.8 million hectares are being lost to agriculture. In some countries of the Region, such as Nepal and Bangladesh, virtually all the natural forests will disappear before year 2000 unless swift remedial action is taken.