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other forest products they need for their survival, thereby reducing the pressure on natural forests. Countries such as China, Korea, and India have been in the forefront of such programs. In the State of Gujarat in India, for example, schools and local farmers have played a lead role in the production of more than 600 million tree seedlings, which have been distributed in the last 5 years.
A most promising area for increased support is research into technologies that have the potential for increasing productivity of the principal tree species being planted in the Region. Tree improvement and breeding programs can more than double the yield of natural forest trees. Pakistan, China, and India have achieved spectacular results with species of poplar. In the Philippines, a giant species of Leucaena produced more than 3 times the yield of indigenous stocks. Participation at a recent International Union of Forest Research Organization workshop identified 10 multipurpose species that will be given high priority in future tree improvement work.
Forest Conservation Policies
About 1.8 million hectares (some 6% of the Region’s forest) have already been set aside as national parks or nature reserves. This is nowhere near sufficient to ensure preservation of the unique germplasm and wildlife resources of the Region or the survival of the many endangered species. Nor is it sufficient to ensure that the natural forests of the Region continue to play a vital role in protecting soil and water resources on which downstream farmers depend for both irrigation and drinking water. According to a recent World Resources Institute study (WRI et al., 1985), some 50 million hectares of deforested watersheds in the Region are in urgent need of rehabilitation.
Creation of interministerial land-use boards with enough political clout to direct future agricultural settlement away from threatened forest areas is a key policy issue for the future. Peninsular Malaysia has led the way. Achieving such effective coordination is frequently hampered by localized political and vested financial interests. It requires top-level political commitment to follow through on what are often unpopular decisions that restrain peoples’ access to forest lands and reduce the level of potential profit to timber enterprises.
The introduction of improved mechanisms for consulting with forest-dwelling communities on land-use issues and forest reservation policies are a feature of government policy in northern Thailand. More specific measures need to be taken to involve local communities throughout the Region, especially to involve nongovernment organizations and environmental agencies in national land-use policy planning and in the implementation of development programs. Recent research by the Government of Indonesia with assistance from the International Institute for Environment and Development is moving in that direction.
Considerable further strengthening of the agriculture, forestry, and national park administrations in the Region is required to enable them to intensify scientific inventory research in national parks and nature reserves, in order to develop parks as a tangible source of revenue and recreation outlet both for local and overseas tourists.